The Fall River Cult

A sinister narrative of murder and satanic rituals that gripped a Massachusetts town in the late ’70s.

The Fall River Cult, implicated in a series of grim murders from October 1979 to February 1980 in Fall River, Massachusetts, became a focal point during the era known as the Satanic Panic in American history. This period is marked by the public’s growing fear of satanic cults and ritualistic crimes, fueled by media and societal anxieties. The sequence of homicides, involving three young women, unfolded against the backdrop of this panic, suggesting the murders were the workings of a satanic cult.

The Murders

The saga began with the killing of 17-year-old Doreen Levesque, found under the bleachers of Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School on the morning of October 14, 1979, following her murder the night before. Despite suspicions and investigations, no one was ever convicted for Levesque’s murder. The series of homicides continued with the death of 19-year-old Barbara Raposa, last seen on November 7, 1979, and found months later in January 1980. Andy Maltais was convicted for Raposa’s murder, receiving a life sentence without parole. The third and final known victim, 20-year-old Karen Marsden, disappeared in February 1980, with parts of her skull found in April the same year. Marsden’s case saw the convictions of Carl Drew and Robin Murphy, with Drew sentenced to life without parole and Murphy, initially sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, later recanting her confession.

Investigation and Aftermath

The investigation into these murders unveiled a harrowing narrative of satanic rituals, sex work, and violence, intertwining the lives of the victims and the accused. Carl Drew, identified as the cult leader, and Robin Murphy, a key figure in the investigation, became central characters in the ensuing legal battles and media coverage. The complexity of the case, with its mix of factual and sensational elements, contributed to the mystique and horror surrounding the Fall River Cult.

The events have been extensively documented, notably in the 2021 documentary “Fall River,” produced by Blumhouse and directed by James Buddy Day. This series revisits the murders, providing a comprehensive look into the investigation, the societal context, and the lingering questions that remain about the guilt of the accused and the existence of the cult.

The Fall River Cult murders remain a dark chapter in the city’s history, embodying the fears and uncertainties of a time when America was grappling with the concept of satanic cults and their purported crimes. The case serves as a study in the intersection of crime, media, and societal anxieties, offering insights into the mechanisms of moral panics and their impact on justice and community psyche.

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