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The Sex Chamber
In March 1999 a woman was found running down a dusty New Mexico track, naked except for a metal collar around her neck. She claimed to have been kidnapped and sexually abused. The ensuing investigation would lead to the door of David Parker Ray, and would expose a 40 year history of sexual torture that may have involved the murder of over 30 women.
Revolving around first-hand testimony, this film tells the compelling story of a victim who got away, and the police efforts to bring a man to justice who was always one step ahead.
BEHIND THE SCENES
They say that fact is stranger than fiction. And you’d have to go some way to find a story that better proves that point than this. The more we researched, the more twists we uncovered, the more unbelievable yet captivating the proposition for this film became. The naked prostitute, the mundane white trailer, the videotape, the tattoo, the accomplice’s confession, the complicit daughter… and a town called Truth or Consequences. You couldn’t make it up.
Truth or Consequences is the home of Spaceport USA, built by Richard Branson as the base for his Virgin Galactic project. The price tag on a trip to space is apparently upwards of $20,000. The irony is that anyone wanting an alien experience need only walk down Main Street. Throw in $1.99 and you can slurp on a Blue Coconut CreamSlush while you walk, courtesy of ‘Sonic Burger’.
I accept that my view of Truth or Consequences may have been clouded by the story I was there to tell but, to me, it felt like the kind of place where bad things happen. A one-road desert town, one hour’s drive from the next nearest civilisation. Bikers’ bars, cheap motels. The kind of place where someone might just build a torture chamber in their garden. You really couldn’t make it up.
Lengthy negotiations had secured us superb access to police evidence but it’s David Parker Ray’s ‘Snake Catcher’, which we stumbled across during a speculative trip to his former place of work, that I consider to be one of our most intriguing finds. An innocent enough piece of engineering until you compare it to the ‘Ankle Spreader’ that he kept in his trailer.
From day one of this project we had been immersed in the darkest of materials. Nicky Huggett was my brilliant assistant producer and I still have a vivid recollection of sitting with her as we listened to Parker Ray’s audio recording for the first time. It ran for an hour and was relentlessly chilling. We dealt with it by detaching ourselves from it. It was a valuable item of evidence that would make our programme all the more powerful. But it wasn’t a part of our own lives, so we didn’t overthink it.
But then we met Kelli van Cleave. And from that moment there was no longer anywhere to hide.
If the eyes are a window into the human soul, this was a woman whose window had been smashed. Her body language was withdrawn, eye contact was non-existent, and it was very clear that trust – particularly in men – was not something that came easily.
It’s the most challenging interview that I’ve ever done, and the one of which I’m most proud. We worked at Kelli’s pace. At times we sat in silence. At times the line of questioning was awkward for both of us. I was very aware of having to tread a careful line. After all, this was her life first, and our programme second. That our time together ended with Kelli going back the venue where her ordeal began speaks volumes for her courage and for just how far we’d come.
Television can be a strangely cathartic process, and as Kelli battled through the tougher parts of her story, her spirit notably lifted. At the start of the interview it had crossed my mind that I genuinely might get nothing out of her. By the time we reached her telling of the second court hearing she was a different person. There was a sparkle in her eyes.
Parker Ray’s death in prison is the final twist in this astonishing tale. His defence attorney, Lee McMillian, is convinced it was suicide. He told me that Parker Ray once demonstrated to him an ability to slow down his heart until he had no pulse. So it must be true.
He also told me that he became a defence attorney because some people deserve to be killed and those who kill them don’t deserve to spend their lives in jail.
Oh, and as he shook my hand at the end of the shoot he told me: “As you go through life, Nic, try not to kill anyone… Try not to kill anyone but, if you do, give me a call”. And then he gave me his card.
Truth or Consequences. Seriously, you couldn’t make it up.
Producer/ Director/ Edit Producer: Nic Guttridge
Production company:Gecko Productions
First broadcast: November 2008 at 10pm