Brian and Leslie Jenkins, residents of Chatham, Ontario, came home on January 6, 1998, to find their 18-year-old daughter Jennifer fatally shot multiple times with a single-shot .22 rifle. As if that wasn't enough heartache and tragedy for any parent to have to deal with the remainder of their days, Jennifer's 20-year-old brother Mason was the prime suspect. He proclaimed his innocence and his parents stood by him. They continued to do so after he was found guilty and his legal challenges were exhausted. They have been visiting him in prison as often as they could and prepare for his return home if the possibility of parole manifests itself in 2014.
Director John Kaster presents an amazing, unpredictable documentary with Life With Murder that will leave viewers stunned. Through the use of present-day footage and interviews as well as archival police material, he weaves a fascinating story. The emotions are uncomfortably raw and on full display as both Brian and Leslie are interviewed by detectives the days of Jennifer's murder and funeral. As it progresses, small bits of information are revealed that caused this viewer to constantly change his opinion of almost all the participants involved. The certainty of some throughout is clearly explained while that of others becomes incomprehensible.
This is a not a simple true-crime story ripped from the headlines but a tragic tale that will make you rethink the notions of love and family. By supporting their son, Brian and Leslie became outcasts in their community, which Leslie says made them feel as if they were "also serving a life sentence." It seems like it would have been so easy to pack up and leave, to start over where no one knew them, and they did consider selling their house but its history kept buyers away. Leslie states, "You don't throw away a kid," making their devotion to Mason clear and unwavering. What makes this family drama even more remarkable is the filming of the documentary caused a great deal of the truth about what actually happened that fateful January day to come out.
Life With Murder has only played at film festivals so do yourself a favor and make an effort to seek it out if it plays near you. Highly recommended.