DALLAS — When Texas Monthly writers Jim Atkinson and John Bloom sat across an interview table from Candy Montgomery in 1984, four years after she killed neighbor Betty Gore with an axe, Atkinson admits he bought her claims of self-defense.
"Candy spoke with us at length," he said. "She didn't make any apologies for what she'd done. She maintained that it was self-defense. And at that time I believed her."
But as their extensive and detailed reporting of the killing, including their book "Evidence of Love", is turned into a Hulu miniseries called "Candy" featuring Jessica Biel in the lead role, he admits his opinion has changed these 42 years after the brutal incident rocked what was then the small town of Wylie north of Dallas.
"I am still of a mixed feeling about this case," Atkinson told WFAA. "I have trouble still with the idea that it was self-defense. I think that this story will...it's almost Shakespearean," he said. "It will go on and on. It's an amazing story. It's rich and it's resonant. And it has lessons to it that I think are eternal in a certain way."
Candy Montgomery, who at the time was having an affair with Betty Gore's husband, went to Gore's house that day allegedly to borrow a bathing suit for a daughter. But when confronted about the affair, a fight ensued.
Montgomery claimed Gore attacked her first with an axe, that she wrestled it away from her. But the excuse or reasoning for an estimated 41 brutal strikes to Gore's body and head with that axe was never fully explained.
"We still don't know exactly what happened," said Atkinson, who said their interviews back in 1984 included upwards of 50 people connected to the case. But he says the Biel production, which he believes captures Montgomery's anxiousness and mystery well, leaves as many doubts and questions as there were in 1980.
"Somebody could be lying," he said. "Somebody could be not remembering well. And since there were only two of them there, you know, that's where you're left."
"That has always been the missing element in this story. We don't know Betty's version of events. And we never will."
Shakespearean, and brutally tragic, no matter how many years go by.
"As much time as I spent on it, who knows, you know," he said.
Atkinson served as a consulting producer on the Biel/Hulu production. His and Bloom's work also serves as a resource for a second HBO production called "Love and Death" starring Elizabeth Olsen.