How a small town American housewife brutally murdered love rival with axe – and then got off on self defence | Englishheadline


HER mutilated body was found lying in a pool of blood in the utility room of her suburban home.

Mum-of-two Betty Gore, 30, had been struck 41 times with an axe, and detectives described the scene as like something out of a ­horror movie.

Candy Montgomery ended up being acquitted for the horrifying killing of Betty Gore


Candy Montgomery ended up being acquitted for the horrifying killing of Betty GoreCredit: Supplied
The victim and killer were actually love rivals who had been tangled in a toxic affair


The victim and killer were actually love rivals who had been tangled in a toxic affairCredit: Family Handout

Indeed the attack, on June 13, 1980, came just a month after the first ­Friday The 13th film hit cinemas.

Even more chilling, on the kitchen table was a copy of that day’s paper, folded to show a review of the film The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson as an axe-wielding psychopath.

The small-town community of Wylie, Texas, where schoolteacher Betty lived, became gripped with fear of the crazed killer on the loose.

Betty’s husband and father even got calls from a man confessing to the crime, threatening to do the same to the couple’s one-year-old daughter Bethany, who had been in the house at the time of the attack.

But the truth was even darker.

The killer was not a known psychopath, it was Betty’s friend, Candy Montgomery, a sweet, bespectacled, popular church member and mum-of-two.

The community became obsessed with wanting to know why — and it was later revealed at Candy’s trial that the two women had become embroiled in a violent confrontation after Candy’s affair with Betty’s ­husband Allan was exposed.

Despite the vicious attack, Candy was cleared of Betty’s murder after she successfully claimed self-defence.

Now, more than four decades on, the story of the killing is told in a new drama series, Love & Death, which is available to stream on ITVX.

It is based on 1984 book Evidence Of Love: A True Story Of Passion And Death In The Suburbs, by Jim Atkinson and John Bloom.

Violent tendencies

Since her acquittal in October 1980, Candy — played by Elizabeth Olsen in the series — has only spoken publicly once, giving her account of the grisly case to journalists Jim and John, which went on to feature in their book.

The pair interviewed Candy several times, and Jim told The Sun: “I liked her.

Elizabeth Olsen plays Candy in the HBO dramatisation


Elizabeth Olsen plays Candy in the HBO dramatisationCredit: HBO MAX / ITV
And the show has now come to the UK on ITVX


And the show has now come to the UK on ITVXCredit: HBO MAX / ITV

“She’s smart, she’s charming, she’s funny.

“I always felt she had the abilities of a politician in the sense that she could get you to like her.

“And it was just in her —  that was her personality. She was very outgoing, she was extremely popular.

“Everyone liked her and everyone was her friend, and none of that was at odds with what I saw in her.

“She never seemed strange to me, in any conversation.

“She seemed exceedingly normal.”

The new series is the second TV dramatisation of the case, after Jessica Biel played the lead role in Hulu’s miniseries Candy last year.

That comes as little surprise to Jim, now 74, who says: “You have the context of a suburban US city and the outlandishness of the crime itself.

“The little town where these people lived, they rarely had a residential burglary, let alone violence like this.

“Then you have an even more absurd situation because you had this big weapon, an axe, wielded by a relatively small, suburban-educated woman who’s never done anything violent in her life.

“The still waters of this suburban, church-going, happy young community . . .  and this is at least one example of violent tendencies running beneath the surface.”

Jim adds: “I think that’s why it’s had such longevity.”

The suburbs of Wylie were full of young families like the Gores and Montgomerys.

Allan and Pat, Candy’s husband, both worked as electrical engineers with Dallas-based tech companies.

Both families were heavily involved in the Methodist Church of Lucas, becoming close after meeting there.

The women were poles apart, both physically and in their personalities.

Brunette Betty, who taught the equivalent of top-year primary school kids, was mum to Alisa and baby Bethany.

She was the bigger of the two women, and more reserved.

Petite, blonde and outgoing, Candy had been working as a secretary when she met Pat but stayed at home to look after their children, Jennifer and Ian.

Jim praised actress Elizabeth Olsen’s portrayal of Candy in the new HBO series, which aired in the US earlier this year.

He says: “She got a lot of the subtleties of Candy’s demeanour, her general vivaciousness.

“Candy had a certain energy, a certain arrogance.

“She had to be the smartest and most successful woman in the room.

“She could be dismissive if she didn’t think they were as bright or as cool as she was.

“She wasn’t afraid to subtly assert her superiority.

“Elizabeth got that across without overdoing it.”

Candy had been a bored housewife looking for excitement when she began a fling with fellow church choir member Allan in December 1978.

The pair planned it meticulously, even laying down ground rules.

They would hold their trysts at a local motel, with Candy making them lunch each time.

Jim interviewed Allan as well as Candy, and says: “We spent a lot of time with each of them talking about that affair, and it was really difficult because people will always lie.

“They may not lie about their bank accounts but they always lie about sex.

“So we had to keep working on each of them to get some version of the truth.”

Affairs were not uncommon in the community, and both couples attended a self-help course called Marriage Encounters to try to fix problems in their relationships.

Jim says: “There were always rumours of wife-swapping going on.

“Bright young people out in the ­suburbs get bored.

“I would not have been surprised if there had been — but nothing with such tragic or dramatic results.”

Jim believes that over time their relationship grew beyond the physical.

He says: “I wound up thinking they fell in love with one another.”

But in December 1979, Allan broke things off with Candy because he wanted to try to fix his marriage.

Jim says: “Suddenly she found ­herself jilted.”

But even after Pat discovered the affair, the two families stayed close.

Betty and Allan’s elder daughter Alisa even stayed at the Montgomerys’ home on the eve of the attack.

Bloody thumbprint

On the day itself Allan had been out of town on a work trip when Candy went round to their house to pick up Alisa’s swimming costume.

As she was fetching it from the utility room, Candy claimed she confessed to the affair after Betty confronted her about it.

Affairs were not uncommon in Wylie, Texas


Affairs were not uncommon in Wylie, TexasCredit: Google
The scene of the crime looked like something out of a horror film


The scene of the crime looked like something out of a horror filmCredit: Getty

She tried to reassure Betty that it was over and she didn’t want Allan but she claims Betty came at her with the axe, striking her toe.

In the ensuing struggle, Candy managed to get the advantage.

She even rinsed the blood off herself in the victim’s bathroom before going about the rest of her day.

And she only became a suspect when Allan confessed to police about the affair and officers discovered she had lied about the time she had left Betty’s house.

A bloody thumbprint found on a freezer at the crime scene, as well as a bloody shoe print in the utility room, led to her arrest.

No one could understand how a normal suburban housewife could carry out such a brutal attack.

Her attorney Don Crowder later argued self-defence and a momentary snap, triggered by a deep-rooted childhood trauma — something he claimed to have discovered after he got expert Dr Fred Fason to ­hypnotise Candy before her trial.

Jim says: “The jury was quite smart.

“Don knew that if he went in there and he said this was self-defence, he had to do something to explain all the carnage.”

It happened to be the maverick lawyer’s first criminal case, but Jim reveals Don had a huge advantage because he was local, so “he knew the community, he knew the context”.

Jim adds: “A typical lawyer might have just started negotiating with the prosecution on an involuntary ­manslaughter plea.

“She could have got a good sentence because she was never going to present a future danger, in my opinion.

“But he had knowledge of the area so he could draw on that.

“He just decided to go for it, and it worked.”

Don successfully shifted the jury’s focus, and Jim, who interviewed a few of the jurors after the acquittal, says: “They concentrated on the self-defence element, which came down to who came at who first, so they bought Candy’s version there.”

Asked if she showed any remorse, Jim says: “She would express sympathy for, say Betty’s children, you know, ‘I feel bad for her kids’.

“I don’t know that I ever heard her directly say anything along the lines of, ‘Oh, that was terrible what I did and I’m very remorseful about it’. She never said anything like that.”

He adds that his impression was that she felt “totally justified in what she did”.

The two writers interviewed her several times, including after she and Pat moved to Georgia.

Allan, who later remarried, also stood by Candy.

Jim says: “He went out of his way to say that he felt like he understood what had happened and in believing Candy.”

Now semi-retired, crime writer Jim says he has not had any contact with Candy since their final interview.

He adds: “I could tell she was tired of talking about it.

“She wanted to move on with her life.”

The couple divorced in 1986 and Candy, now 73, has never spoken publicly since.

She is said to work as a family therapist.

Jim says: “It’s one more irony in this whole thing.

“She always said that she regretted not getting a college degree, because she was very bright.

“So I guess she decided to go ahead and do that.

“It’s interesting that she did it in this field.”

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Jim adds: “I guess she thought, ‘Well, I can draw on my own rather dramatic experience’.”

  • All episodes of Love And Death are available to stream on ITVX. Evidence Of Love: A True Story Of Passion And Death In The ­Suburbs, by Jim Atkinson and John Bloom, has been republished by Amazon.
All episodes of Love And Death are available to stream on ITVX


All episodes of Love And Death are available to stream on ITVXCredit: HBO MAX / ITV

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