Our British thriller feature film SILENT FEAR was inspired by the murders of two deaf students at America’s prestigious Gallaudet University for the Deaf, in Washington, some 13 years ago.
It was a case that gripped America from the time of the first murder, in September 2000, until an arrest was made following the second murder some five months later. Washington Metropolitan Police didn’t know if it was an ‘inside job’ and for a time nearly everyone connected to Gallaudet was under suspicion.
Signing in class at Gallaudet
A copy of a 2001 CNN report on the murder investigation follows:
Suspect arrested in Gallaudet murders
February 13, 2001
WASHINGTON (CNN) — A suspect has been arrested in connection with the murders of two students at Gallaudet University, police said Tuesday.
Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey said 20-year old Joseph Mesa, a freshman at the university for the deaf, was charged with two counts of felony murder for the deaths of Benjamin Varner, 19, whose body was found February 3, and Eric Plunkett, also 19, who was killed in September.
Ramsey said the motive for the murders was robbery.
“We have sufficient evidence to charge him with two counts of felony murder,” Ramsey said.
Mesa will be arraigned Wednesday in District of Columbia Superior Court.
Varner, of San Antonio, Texas, died of multiple stab wounds to his face and body. Plunkett, of Burnsville, Minnesota, was beaten to death. He suffered from cerebral palsy.
Dr. I. King Jordan, president of Gallaudet, said there is a sense of relief that the suspected killer has been caught.
“At the same time, there’s a real sense of sadness that the individual who is said to be responsible for this is from our community,” Jordan said.
Both students were killed in Cogswell Hall, which will remain closed for the remainder of the semester, university officials said. Mesa lived in the dorm next to Cogswell Hall.
Another killing occurred at Gallaudet in 1981, when a male student stabbed his boyfriend to death after a heated argument. The murderer was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Gallaudet, was founded partly by President Abraham Lincoln nearly 140 years ago.
When first heard about the murders, it inspired us to write the SILENT FEAR screenplay. We found the idea of a serial killer at large in a university for the Deaf chilling and we immediately recognized it was high concept and tailor-made for gripping cinematic viewing.
While SILENT FEAR could be set just about anywhere in the civilized world, we’ve chosen to set it in London. In the London borough of South Kensington to be exact. We believe the thriller genre suits London and this story has a very British feel to it. That said, we are confident it will appeal to audiences worldwide – both normal hearing and Deaf audiences.
Here’s the SILENT FEAR premise in brief:
Scotland Yard detective Valerie Crowther is assigned to investigate the murder of a student at London’s Wandsworth University for the Deaf. Her investigation coincides with a student contracting a deadly flu virus, which results in the university being sealed off from the outside world. When more deaf students are murdered, it’s clearly the work of a serial killer. The stakes rise when Valerie becomes the killer’s next target and the deadly virus claims more lives.
Here’s our teaser trailer for SILENT FEAR: http://youtu.be/Ll9O9dedd44
New Zealand producers Brent Macpherson, of Stretch Productions, and Ronel Schodt, of Shotz Productions, aim to shoot SILENT FEAR on location in London as a likely 3D production in 2014. They welcome expressions of interest from experienced British producers interested in collaborating on this highly commercial feature film project as well as from A-List directors interested in helming it.