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Elizabeth Olsen to play Dallas-area ax killer Candy Montgomery in HBO Max series

It’s the second Hollywood project in the works about Montgomery, who was acquitted of murder in 1980.

On June 13, 1980 — a Friday the 13th — schoolteacher Betty Gore was hacked to death with an ax in her suburban home in the Collin County town of Wylie. The killer was then-30-year-old Candy Montgomery. She had been having an affair with Gore’s husband, Allan Gore. The couple’s baby, not yet a year old, lay in her crib for hours as her mother’s body went undiscovered in another part of the house.

The Dallas Morning News branded it the most sensational North Texas murder trial of the late 20th century. It swallowed up news coverage and lured standing-room-only crowds to the trial in the old Collin County Courthouse in McKinney.

Candy Montgomery and her husband, Pat, leave an elevator in the Collin County Courthouse in McKinney after her murder trial was turned over to the jury.
Candy Montgomery and her husband, Pat, leave an elevator in the Collin County Courthouse in McKinney after her murder trial was turned over to the jury.(DMN File)
Elizabeth Olsen arrives at a Los Angeles movie premiere in 2014.
Elizabeth Olsen arrives at a Los Angeles movie premiere in 2014.(Jordan Strauss / Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

When it was done, Montgomery walked free, having convinced a jury that she had administered 41 wounds in self-defense.

Now, a new streaming series about what happened is the works.

HBO Max has announced Love and Death with Elizabeth Olsen of WandaVision fame playing the killer. Nicole Kidman and David E. Kelley are also on board as executive producers. The duo previously worked together on The Undoing and Big Little Lies.

Kelley is writing the series, which is partly inspired by articles from Texas Monthly.

It’s the second Hollywood effort underway on the topic. Last summer, Universal Content Productions announced Candy, a limited series starring Elisabeth Moss as Montgomery. Hulu picked up the project in December.

Earlier retellings came in a 1984 book, Evidence of Love, and a 1990 television movie.

Betty Gore holds her daughter Bethany while Lisa sits next to her in 1979, a year before her death.
Betty Gore holds her daughter Bethany while Lisa sits next to her in 1979, a year before her death.(Craig Hacker)

Candace Lynn Montgomery, 71, now lives in rural Georgia. In a 2000 article about her case, The News described her lawyer’s unconventional approach as nothing less than a judicial bombshell:

“Don Crowder, arguing his first criminal case, apparently shocked the prosecution, too. The state presented its case proving that Montgomery killed Gore. Crowder and Montgomery offered no argument. But Montgomery did take the stand. She and Allan Gore had an affair that ended months before, she said.

“Betty Gore confronted Montgomery with a question about the affair. And came at her with the ax, Montgomery said. In a struggle with the larger woman, Montgomery gained control.

‘I hit her. I hit her. And I hit her. She fell slowly, almost to a sitting position. I kept hitting her. And hitting her … I felt so guilty, so dirty. I felt so ashamed.’ "

The defense attorney brought in a psychiatrist who said that an offhand remark by Gore during the fight — an incongruous “Shhhh!” — had triggered a repressed memory from when Montgomery was 4 years old and fueled the rage behind the series of blows that obliterated Gore’s face.

The scene of the killing in Wylie is shown in a 1980 file photo.
The scene of the killing in Wylie is shown in a 1980 file photo.(DMN File)

The jury acquitted Montgomery in less than five hours. The number of wounds was never an issue, juror Alice Doherty Rowley told The News:

“We determined it never had a bearing on the verdict at all — whether it was one gunshot or 1,000 whacks.”

As reporter Doug Swanson concluded:

“The verdict stunned the community, which had condemned Montgomery for infidelity and generally didn’t buy the self-defense argument.”

Michael Granberry, Arts Writer. Michael Granberry was born and grew up in Dallas. He graduated from Samuell High School in Pleasant Grove in 1970 and from Southern Methodist University in 1974. Between his junior and senior years, he interned at The Washington Post during "the Watergate summer" of 1973. He spent 19 years at the Los Angeles Times before returning to Dallas.

mgranberry@dallasnews.com @mgranberry

Jeremy Hallock, Special Contributor. Jeremy Hallock is a Dallas freelance writer.

artslife@dallasnews.com
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