Candy’s portrayed on the show reflects how the trial played out in real life. In court, Candy’s defense attorney, Don Crowder, called witnesses who described his client as a loving and social mother, in contrast to the “standoffish” and “prone to depression” Betty. The women’s pastor tested that he found Betty difficult, while Candy was friendly. It was thus apparently not a huge stretch for jurors to imagine that Candy was really the victim in the entire sordid affair.
In Candy’s courtroom testimony, which is dramatized in the show, Betty had somehow discovered the affair (Allan testified that he didn’t know whether his wife knew anything about it). Candy said that when she arrived at Betty’s home that day, Betty confronted her about cheating, told her that she had to kill her, and rushed at her with an ax. Then Candy testified that she went into a dissociative state as she fought for her life (Candy blamed her reaction on childhood trauma, which she remembered after sessions with a hypnotist).
“When Betty Gore came at Candy Montgomery, she was no longer a human being — she was an animal,” Crowder told the jury, both in real life and onscreen.
History is written by the victors, and in this case the narrative of Betty and Candy has been determined by the woman who survived their deadly encounter. The press covered Candy favorably before she eventually faded from public view. In a wire story after her acquittal, Candy told the reporter that she had champagne and cake at a “small victory party” at her home, that she had received constant support from friends and family during and after the trial. (She also quipped to the reporter that she “wasn’t dangerous” after opening the door with a knife in her hand.)
This instinct to center Candy in the story rather than Betty or Betty’s family has continued in candy. Before I watched the show, I read the Texas Monthly series but was surprised to find there was little other publicly available information. The murder hadn’t been covered by true crime blogs or dissected on Websleuths; there was no “Candy” podcast. In order to find any coverage of the murder and trial, I had to go into newspaper archives and read old reports from 1980. With its release, amateur sleuths are likely to comb through old news articles just like I did, speculating whether Candy got away with murder or if Betty really did charge at her with an ax. A new audience will learn the name Betty Gore in a negative light.
As I watched the show, I couldn’t stop wondering who it was for. No one is asking the courts to relitigate or reopen the case; Candy is alive but can’t be retrieved for the same crime. There’s no mystery to solve here, no body or suspect to find. I couldn’t track Candy down, but I can’t imagine she’s too thrilled about the publicity. The Gore family member told me that both of Betty’s grown children have gone on to become happy and successful, and have declined numerous requests over the years to participate in true crime shows interested in featuring their mother’s case. The family is displeased that this is all being dredged up, and their family trauma will be in the spotlight anew.
“It’s one thing for shows like dateline to do stories with family participation and input, but this goes too far,” they said.
So why bring the crime back into the public eye now? The answer is rather simple. The show is for us: the viewers who feed the massive true crime industrial complex, demanding juicier and more shocking cases for our consumption. If the story is good, it doesn’t matter that Betty’s children will now have to relive their childhood tragedy when they have only ever sought privacy. It doesn’t matter if Betty was really as unpleasant as the show makes her seem, if Candy was as innocent as it makes her seem, or what really happened that day; what matters is that we will watch.
At the end of candy, Candy testifies about her final encounter with Betty. In the back of the courtroom, Betty appears. She glowers beneath her pageboy haircut, silently judging Candy’s version of events. What is she thinking? That candy is wrong? Or that she wished she had killed Candy instead?
We’ll never know because Betty never explains. As the jury announces they have found Candy not guilty, Betty just looks distressed, then fades away. She never gets to tell us her side of the story. ●