SPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers for the latest The First 48 episode.
In “A Beautiful Life,” Detective Jason White and the Tulsa Homicide team responded to the murder of a young man killed in his mother’s driveway. When a pill bottle was recovered at the scene, they not only discovered his murder was connected to a drug deal but also identified a suspect—if they could find him and the mystery man he came to the house with.
001. Jason White can relate to everyone
Part of being a homicide detective is having great conversational skills, because you need witnesses to tell you what they know and hopefully you get suspects to talk. Some First 48 leads are particularly great at this, though, and Det. White is one of them. He went from encouraging the victim’s grieving fiancee and complimenting her on her strength near the start of the episode, to being calm and empathetic with the eventual shooter by the end of the hour. The suspect even thanked him for how Det. White treated him!
That’s a truly good detective and more importantly it’s just being a truly stand-up person. As former homicide detective Justin Ritter once said in another episode, if you’re tired or angry and let that affect an interview it can usually tank said interview. Jason White read the room throughout this episode and understood that empathy was what everybody needed. There’s no doubt that the way he handled these people, not just how he talked to them but how he heard them, was a crucial component of closing this case.
002. Suspects are people too
The big twist in “A Beautiful Life” came when the original suspect identified the second person on the scene as his cousin—and then the cousin confessed that he, not his family member, had pulled the trigger. He said that he came forward to protect his loved one and revealed that he hadn’t made a statement before because he’d met someone and fallen in love. It was a little bit heart-wrenching to hear him talk about how he was hoping to get married because he didn’t know what that’s like.
Most true crime fans probably already know this but The First 48 has long done an excellent job of showing that everyone involved in a homicide is a human being. Some of them are truly disturbed or completely heartless but the majority of the time cases aren’t as black and white as is depicted on TV crime dramas. People get consumed by emotion or they’re under the influence and they do things that they can’t take back. While it doesn’t excuse the crime they’ve committed, it’s important to see them three-dimensionally, too.
003. The editing of the show may have changed
It seems like A&E is taking a different approach with The First 48 this season. Like the previous installment “Along Came A Killer” this episode opened with comments from the victim’s family instead of the traditional 911 call. (We got to hear the 911 audio and see the first responders afterward through a “one year earlier” flashback.)
In the middle of the episode, the show also paused the investigation to hear more commentary from some of the victim’s friends. It then ended the hour with the usual reflections from other loved ones. So we heard more from family and friends in “A Beautiful Life” than we normally do. This is a cornerstone piece of the show—it gives us insight into the victim’s life and the positive impact they had on other people—but in this case it felt a bit awkward. Putting a reaction segment in the middle slowed the pacing of the episode down. There was the anticipation of looking for the murder suspect and then it came to a stop by inserting the other interviews.
It’s also different to essentially cold open the episodes with people talking. The 911 calls were a good way to kick off cases because of the sense of urgency, and also because they gave viewers the same starting point that the police got. The new format isn’t as effective so we’ll have to see if the change is permanent or just something done for these two episodes.
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)2020-2021 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.