Tammy Wood, executive producer of Investigation Discovery channel’s “Tabloid” series, was scanning the Internet, looking for something different, when she stumbled upon the Spade Cooley murder trial.
It had everything she was looking for: a fresh topic, high drama, celebrity angle and nostalgia. It was a story that had the “classic look” of Hollywood’s Babylon era, Wood said during a recent interview.
The sensational 1961 murder that resulted in what many at the time called Bakersfield’s “trial of the century,” will be featured June 20 on “Tabloid,” a series packed with “the most bizarre, larger-than-life stories,” according to the show’s website.
“There are lessons learned in this story,” said Wood, noting the case has “universal appeal. Everyone can relate to the facts. It’s a story of abuse and drinking; of fame and wealth; and it’s from an unbelievably classic time.”
The 30-minute “Tabloid” segment, narrated by television host Jerry Springer, focuses on the western swing star’s brutal torture and murder of his 38-year-old wife, Ella Mae, at their ranch in eastern Kern County.
A Bakersfield jury convicted Cooley in 1961 of first-degree murder and he was sentenced to state prison. The Cooleys’ 14-year-old daughter Melody witnessed the crime and testified against her father in the Kern County Superior Court trial. Now 68, she reportedly lives in the Midwest and guards her privacy, declining to be interviewed for the show.
Bakersfield attorney Timothy Lemucchi was interviewed extensively. Lemucchi is the executor for the estate of Bakersfield private detective Leonard Winters, who worked on Cooley’s defense and maintained extensive files about the case, which Lemucchi now oversees.
“Fame and Misfortune,” the episode that features Spade Cooley’s crime and trial, is scheduled to air at 10 p.m. June 20. The program is available locally on AT&T U-verse, Bright House Networks, DirecTV and Dish Network.
What: The sensational Kern County trial of western swing icon Spade Cooley will be featured on the television series “Tabloid”
When: 10 p.m. June 20
Where: Investigation Discovery