Imagine watching a television crime drama about a girl being kidnapped and held hostage for a decade, and when the show ends having the breaking news headline practically be torn right out of that show’s plot.
Viewers of CBS’s Hawaii Five-O didn’t have to imagine this scenario May 6.
By now, most readers will have heard of the discovery of three women, Amanda Berry (now 27), Michelle Knight (now 32) and Gina DeJesus (now 23), all of whom had been kidnapped in their teens or early 20s in Cleveland.
Spoilers to follow…
The CBS show’s episode Ho’opio (To Take Captive) told the story of a girl (coincidentally also Amanda) who had been kidnapped at the age 7 ten years ago. Her body is found shot in the back and dumped in a shallow grave. The Five-O team initially is investigating the young woman’s murder when a hair found on the body takes them in a different direction. They expected the hair to be from the girl’s abductor, but instead discover it belongs to another little girl–Ella–who was taken only a day before the discovery of Amanda’s body.
Now they have a second kidnapping and must race to find little Ella before the trail goes cold.
At first the team arrests a thug who was seen in a van with tires fitting the pattern of tracks found at scene of Amanda’s murder. But soon they discover that the creep was actually casing homes for a string of burglaries in Ella’s neighborhood. He’s a criminal but not their kidnapper.
Video surveillance of an intersection near Ella’s home brings another lead, when Detective Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim) notices a blue car passing through the intersection six times in less than an hour. Enhancement of the video shows them that the driver is a woman wearing a Honolulu Police Department uniform. The car’s tags give them a name, and they quickly determine the woman is not a cop.
When Five-O raids her home, the woman kills herself rather than being arrested. After searching the home they ascertain that Ella is not there and that the woman is a serial abductor. Her closet is full of uniforms that would make children trust her–police, nurse, even a nun. They also find cash and evidence of false identification for Ella.
This is when the motive for both Amanda and Ella’s kidnappings becomes clear. Whoever took both girls wanted the welfare money and they needed a minor child to collect it by posing as the parents. With Amanda about to turn 18, she not only was of no use to them, she had become a liability.
Once Five-O determined who was collecting the checks, they were able to go directly to their home. But when they arrive the couple, played by Mare Winningham and Henry Rollins, feign ignorance. McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) discovers the secret room where the girls were both held, but Ella is not present. Winningham’s character is convinced to admit that Ella was there after McGarrett shows her Amanda’s dead body (apparently she didn’t know, or didn’t want to know that her husband had disposed of her), but she only knows that Rollins has hidden Ella, but not where.
That brings us to Detective Danny Williams (Scott Caan). Readers may remember that in a previous episode “Danno” railed against a legitimate gun shop owner for not keeping records of ammunition sales, which are not required by law. But in this episode the “good cop” has no problem beating the information out Rollins’ character to find out what he wants to know, the law be damned. Danno takes off his badge and McGarrett walks away as Williams beats Rollins’ character–off screen–until he tells him where Ella is.
There is, of course, a happy ending, when the team finds Ella buried alive in a field, but otherwise unharmed.
We don’t yet know the motive(s) behind the real life abductions in Cleveland. And there’s no reason at this point to believe that welfare fraud was involved this case (though it could be). But the creepy coincidence of this story, which was obviously written and filmed before the discovery of these three women, is uncanny.
In both the show and reality girls named Amanda were kidnapped and held hostage for a decade. What are the odds of those two coincidences and then the show actually airing on the very night the women are found?