Life With Murder
This film by John Kastner shares the true story of what happens when a parent’s worst nightmare comes true. On January 6th, 1998 the 18-year-old daughter of Leslie and Bryan Jenkins was murdered in cold blood.
The mother recalls entering the house and seeing her daughter’s school bag by the basement door and a trail of blood across the family room floor. Jennifer had been shot three times in the head and twice in the chest. Her body was down in the basement and she was covered with blood. At the time, Mason, their 20-year-old son, was nowhere to be found.
Chatham is a small town a few minutes away from Detroit. It’s a relatively safe place where a murder occurs only about once a year. Unfortunately, 1998 was the Jenkins’ year to experience the horrors of losing a loved one.
The tragedy left the father, mother, and son struggling to pick up the pieces of their broken hearts and move on with their lives. What made it even more difficult was that Mason was arrested, tried, and found guilty of murder in the first degree even though he insisted that he was innocent. According to Leslie, Mason was not a violent person and there was no way he would have hurt his sister. However, Mason had been in and out of institutions from the age of twelve for minor theft.
On the evening of Jennifer’s murder, he rode away from the house on a horse. Later during interrogation he told a story about a white van that pulled up to the house. According to Mason, four bad men jumped out and two of them were armed. Needless to say, the investigators did not believe his story.
It was difficult trying to grieve for their daughter and prepare her funeral while at the same time trying to cooperate with the ongoing investigation. The murder investigation meant that, in a sense, they would also lose their son.
The Jenkins decided to stand by Mason. He had never had a history of violence and they refused to believe that he would murder his own sister. Other than the usual spats that occur between siblings, Mason and Jennifer had never had any big differences and they loved each other.
The trial went on for three years. Because they live in a small town, everybody knew the story and so eventually their friends started avoiding them. There was no way to escape the stigma, the loneliness, and the pain that came as a result of judgment and rejection.
Bryan was deeply affected by the whole tragedy. He developed diabetes and lost a lot of weight. His natural spark and joy for life were buried in the past. Leslie tried as hard as she could to create a sense of normalcy in the home that was now suddenly empty.
How were they able to cope with all this pain? Find out now.