The true crime series The First 48 returned to A&E this week with back-to-back episodes spotlighting new cases of the country’s homicide detectives.
SPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers for the latest The First 48 episode.
“Masked in Mobile” saw Mobile Homicide take over an assault case where the victim later died from his injuries. But as Corporal Josh Coleman and the team began their own investigation, they learned that the people closest to the victim were the ones most likely to know about his murder. The episode led police (and viewers) down a tragic road.
001. Crimes can be vastly different than they first appear
If you just watched the opening of “Masked in Mobile” it appeared to be a case of an innocent man shot in his own driveway by someone targeting him. But the case turned as his grieving fiancee was revealed to be an alleged victim of domestic abuse. Suddenly, the investigation was about her—and whether or not someone had decided to stand up for her.
The audience’s perception of the victim completely shifted over the course of the episode. The new information didn’t change the fact that this was still a murder and someone still needed to be held accountable for it. But the case was far messier and more emotionally complicated than it first appeared. The man arrested for the murder wasn’t even personally involved in the situation—he had just been called over by a friend of the victim’s fiancee and took things too far.
“Masked in Mobile” was a reminder that there are a lot of roads that can lead to homicide, oftentimes over the smallest things or the most tenuous connections. What never changes, though, is that they all end tragically.
002. Julius Nettles has a gift for conversation
Cpl. Coleman may have been the lead investigator but “Masked in Mobile” was a great episode for Cpl. Julius Nettles. The First 48 viewers know Nettles is one of the best homicide detectives in Mobile (and the whole show really) and this installment was a reminder as to why. Once it became clear that the fiancee wasn’t forthcoming it was Nettles who told her to “stop the bulls–t” and be honest, leading her to admit that her friend had been on the phone before the murder and give the team a name.
Later on it was Nettles who went back into the interview room with the fiancee’s friend and convinced her to open up by painting her as a heroic figure who wanted to “solve everybody else’s problems.” His sympathetic shoulder worked—the friend broke and admitted that she had texted the suspect to come over to the victim’s residence. He got the information that they needed, and almost as importantly, he knew when to step back so he didn’t push the witness into a corner either.
Det. Glenn Barton refers to Nettles as “the master at work” during this episode, and he’s absolutely right.
003. How to handle domestic abuse situations
“Masked in Mobile” included allegations of domestic abuse coming from the fiancee’s friend, which opened up a whole separate subject to discuss. In one scene, Sgt. Kenneth Gillespie explained to camera that homicide detectives have to be careful interviewing a witness or suspect who is an abuse victim because it complicates their testimony. Detectives don’t know if they’re being honest or potentially trying to protect themselves or their loved one. Gillespie gave a great explanation of this particular topic that viewers then saw in practice throughout the episode.
These are the topics that The First 48 brings to life that most people probably don’t consider when it comes to homicide investigations. The longevity of the show isn’t just because it’s great entertainment; it’s also a tool for us as viewers to understand more about how this much-discussed area of policing actually works.
The First 48 airs Thursdays at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on A&E. For more true crime stories, visit Crime-TV.com.
Article content is (c)2020-2023 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr and on Instagram at @BFTVGram.