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'Candy' explores true-life ax murder in small-town Texas

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'Candy' explores true-life ax murder in small-town Texas
Jessica Biel arrives for the Toronto International Film Festival premiere of "Limetown" on September 6, 2019. She stars as Candy Montgomery in the Hulu series "Candy." File Photo by Chris Chew/UPI | License Photo

May 5 (UPI) -- The true crime story of a Texas woman acquitted of the ax-murder of a friend in 1980 is heading to the small screen twice this year with actor Jessica Biel first taking a stab at the role in the Hulu series Candy next week.

The former 7th Heaven star will portray Candace "Candy" Montgomery, a small-town homemaker who killed her friend, middle school teacher Betty Gore (Melanie Lynskey), after a torrid affair drove the two women apart.

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Candy, which premieres Monday on Hulu, was inspired by the real-life slaying of Betty Gore and subsequent trial of Candy Montgomery. The case made headlines after Candy was acquitted of charges despite admitting to striking Betty 41 times with an ax during an argument.

The two women became friends in the late 1970s after joining the same church in rural Collin County, Texas. They sang in the church choir together along with their respective husbands -- Allan Gore (Pablo Schreiber) and Pat Montgomery (Timothy Simons).

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Things became complicated in 1978 when Candy told Allan she was attracted to him.

Allan would later testify in court that Candy initiated an affair with him when she told him "I was attractive to her." He said he resisted her advances for two months, but eventually began a romantic relationship with her.

He told the court they met up once every two or three weeks while Candy's daughter was in Bible class. Sometimes they would meet for lunch, other times they got a motel room.

Allan said he decided to end the relationship about 10 months later, telling the court, "I could not share myself with Candy."

In court testimony, Candy said Betty confronted her about the affair on June 13, 1980, several months after it ended while the two women were visiting at the Gore residence.

Candy said that when she admitted to the affair, Betty walked into the nearby utility room and came back with a 3-foot-long ax.

"I don't ever want you to see him again," Candy said Betty told her. "You can't have him."

Candy said she tried to leave the Gore residence and put her hand on Betty's arm to apologize to her. She said Betty pushed her into the utility room, grabbed the ax and told her, "You can't have him, you can't have him. I've got to kill you."

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Candy testified that Betty struck her once in the head, drawing blood, but missed her with the second swing. The two then struggled over the ax before Candy said she grabbed it and hit Betty in the head.

Candy told the court that Betty tried to attack her again, so she struck her with the ax again in self defense.

"I didn't think," Candy testified. "I didn't think at all. I raise it and I hit her, and I hit her, and I hit her and I hit her."

Candy's lawyers argued that she killed Betty in self-defense, but prosecutors questioned why it took 41 ax blows to defend herself. A lie detector test indicated Candy was truthful when she said Betty was the initial aggressor in the encounter.

The jury ultimately agreed and acquitted Candy of the charges.

After the verdict, Candy said she hoped to forget and move on from the incident.

"Candy is very strong," she said, speaking in third-person. "I can make it through anything."

When a reporter visited her home after the trial's conclusion, she opened the door with a smile and holding a knife, UPI reported at the time.

"Don't worry, I'm not dangerous," she told the reporter.

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But the jury's decision drew outrage from many of the spectators at the McKinney, Texas, trial.

"It's awful to think someone can do something like that and go scot-free," Claudia Nelson Martin told UPI.

"I don't see how a confessed murderer can be found not guilty," another observer, Jan Gifford, said. "I've been here almost the whole trial and I can't believe it. Someone forgot Betty Gore."

Crowds outside the McKinney, Texas, courtroom shouted at Candy as she left, calling her a "murderer."

Candy premieres Monday on Hulu and also stars Raúl Esparza and Sharon Conley.

HBO Max is releasing its own version of the story later this year with the series Love and Death starring Elizabeth Olsen as Candy Montgomery, Lily Rabe as Betty Gore, Patrick Fugit as Pat Montgomery and Jesse Plemons as Allan Gore.

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