Julian Hobbs and Elli Hakami solve a mystery about the origins of a sex scandal

Warning: Although not graphic, this article is about pedophilia.“In the true crime genre, is the first port of call that people will look for Texas Monthly.

Producer Elli Hakami commented on her search for possible projects. “I started going through their backlog of articles,” she continued. “I saw an article called ‘The Girl Who Telled the Truth’ by Mike Hall. I saw that it was about a young woman who once accused her family of putting her in a pedophile ring at a swingers club in a small town in Texas. That immediately caught my attention.”

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Hakami and her creative partner, director Julian Hobbs, have built a career about true crime documentariesmost recently with the acclaimed series house hammer, It explored the sexual misconduct allegations against actor Armie Hammer and his twisted family history. Now, the pair delve into another tale of family, sex and abuse in the three-part series How to create a sex scandal for Max

A scandalous story

How to create a sex scandal The focus is on the small Texas town of Mineola. In 2004, foster parents Margie and John Cantrell took home three young children: seven-year-old Shelby, six-year-old Hunter, and four-year-old Carly. Child Protection Services had removed the children from their home after finding evidence of their parents’ drug use. As the children settled in with the Cantrells, Margie contacted the police, claiming the children had told her stories of sexual abuse. Mike Hall documented the investigation and subsequent trials for Texas Monthly.

For Hobbs and Hakami, the story represented a golden opportunity.

“We were like, ‘How can we adjust and update that and see where these families are now and see the aftermath of these events that happened 10 to 15 years ago,'” Hobbs said.

“We realized that we could involve the viewer in the story in the way that the people in the story experienced it,” Hakami added.

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The first allegations made by the children about Margie Cantrell were that all three children were subjected to a “sex kindergarten” at the home of Patrick “Booger Red” Kelly, a friend of their parents’. The children further claimed that their parents, Jamie and Shauntel Mayo, then forced them to perform at an adult swingers club, including the children’s grandparents, Jim and Sheila, and another family friend, Dennis Pittman.

Local investigators initially declined to press charges against any of the adults due to a lack of evidence. That didn’t stop Margie Cantrell from persuading Texas Ranger Philip Kemp in neighboring Smith County to start his own investigation, even though he had no experience dealing with child sex crimes. Eventually, a court convicted Shauntel, Jamie, Patrick and Dennis of child sex crimes. Jim and Sheila made plea deals that landed them in jail as well.

But when Hakami and Hobbs conducted interviews with a number of key figures in the case, including Mike Hall, Hunter & Carly Mayo, Margie Cantrell and more, they came to their own conclusion.

Re-examine a mystery

How to start a sex scandal with Max

“This case has not been properly investigated,” Hakami explained. “I think it is fair to say that the investigation was not thorough in terms of establishing facts and evidence and relied too much on the testimonies of these children. That’s it. I mean, the case was also investigated in Mineola and dismissed by the police. Then things shifted to Smith County, and much of the evidence was never forwarded or given to the defense.”

First, no charges were ever brought against the swingers’ club owners, and according to Hobbs and Hakami, they or any of their patrons were never considered suspects.

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“The police checked who went to the swingers’ club,” notes Hobbs. “If any of these defendants had ever been there, the license plate checks would have been clear. Then this evidence is allegedly destroyed. That’s right. it disappears And we have tape to see the owner of the swingers club saying, “Well, of course, because we had a lot of cops and Texas Rangers in the swingers club.” The simple fact is that it would have exonerated them if the license plates of the defendants never would have been associated with this swingers club.”

So how did it happen that, with gaps in the investigative logic so large, six people ended up in prison? Two characters in How to create a sex scandal will spark the biggest debate: Texas Ranger Kemp and foster mom Margie Cantrell. Kemp, like all other investigators and prosecutors, turned down the chance to appear on the series. Cantrell, on the other hand, took part in extensive interviews.

hero or villain?

Maggie Cantrell in How to Create a Sex Scandal

“I definitely think it took several conversations,” Hakami recalls after convincing Cantrell to perform. “By the way, I have to give kudos to our production team, Elissa Halperin and Valerie Schenkman, who were really at the forefront of these conversations with Margie and the Cantrell family.”

“We spent two days with her in California, where she lives now,” Hobbs added. “She was absolutely cooperative and friendly. And we appreciated her point of view, but we’ll let viewers decide where they land on Margie. We wanted you to progress through the arc as the town progresses through the arc and come to your own conclusion.”

Viewers will surely have an opinion. How to create a sex scandal reminds of the paradise lost trilogy and Capture of the Friedmans two more true-crime documentaries that ignited a wild debate about the guilt of the defendants, the conduct of investigators, and the hysteria surrounding child sexual abuse in rural and suburban America. For Hobbs and Hakami, delving into the haze of memory and the filth of sordid subjects is no chance to exploit a subject. It is a chance to contribute to further justice.

“It’s obviously so bleak and it can be very distressing, but we’re always mindful of that,” Hobbs explained. “Can this story bring about change? Because it might help correct some mistakes. Or it could ultimately help ensure justice is served. Then do it for a reason. So it doesn’t always feel so dark and horrible. And these things Are dark and terrible. But if there’s a light of hope at the end, I think it helps you fall asleep at night.”

How to Create a Sex Scandal is out March 23 on Max.

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