Three Graves by Holly Jurbergs | Script Revolution

Three Graves

Type:

Status:

Page Count: 
103pp

Genre:

Budget:

Age Rating:

Based On: 
Unpublished novel
Logline: 
A reporter investigates a cold case from her hometown and puts her brother's life in jeopardy when she uncovers evidence of his childhood abuse and her powerful father's involvement in the crimes.
Synopsis/Details: 

Format: Feature
Genre: Crime Drama
Comps: Shawshank Redemption, Sharp Objects
Rating: R

Samantha Cooper is a 34-year-old reporter from Austin Texas who is assigned to cover a twenty-year-old cold case from her childhood home of Marble Falls. The unsolved murder case involves a teenage girl, Casey Crowley, whose decomposed body is found in a grave near the local quarry. Two other girls, Rachel Kersey and Sophia Wheatley disappear a short time later and are never found. The film opens with two scenes from Samantha’s childhood and her life growing up as one of four adopted children of Pastor Kevin Mcdonald and his wife, Laura. Kevin Mcdonald begins his career as the senior pastor of a small Baptist Church in Marble Falls and later becomes a powerful and wealthy leader of a megachurch in Houston.
Daniel Parra, a respected homicide detective from Houston, leads a new cold case unit in Austin. He invites Samantha to shadow him as he tracks down witnesses who knew the three teenage victims. Retesting of DNA evidence reveals a likely suspect, Michael Burton, a convicted rapist serving time in McAlester State Penitentiary in Oklahoma who lived in Marble Falls at the time of Casey’s murder. An interview with Burton reveals a connection to Samantha’s childhood. Burton claims to know her estranged brother, Tommy, and he urges her to contact him. Burton begins sending Samantha letters from prison that seem to contain clues about the girls’ murders. As Samantha and Parra interview witnesses, they find evidence that implicates Burton including child pornography involving Casey and Tommy in a safe deposit box owned by him. An interview with Casey Crowley’s mother, Melanie, suggests Burton’s son Jesse had a romantic relationship with Casey in high school and a possible motive for her murder. Samantha and Parra also interview Evelyn Bell who has been searching for her twin sister Rachel Kersey since they were separated at birth.
Samantha’s desire to have a baby escalates problems in her marriage with her husband Will. She begins a romantic relationship with Parra who is also married. When a DNA test confirms Samantha is pregnant with Parra’s baby, she keeps the pregnancy secret. Samantha reconnects with her brother Tommy who is a drummer for a rock band and struggles with drug dependency. When Samantha confronts Tommy with the evidence against Burton, Tommy defends him and confirms his close relationship with Casey and Rachel in high school. Samantha and Tommy are run off the road and crash into a river. They survive the car wreck, but Tommy is hospitalized with a broken hand and Samantha’s secret pregnancy is revealed to her husband Will who separates from her.
Samantha receives another letter from Burton with a map that leads police to a grave near the Fellowship Baptist Church. Bones are recovered and confirmed as the remains of Sophia Wheatley. Tommy is prescribed Vicodin for his broken hand which leads to a drug relapse. Samantha and Parra find him nearly overdosed on heroin. Tommy reveals that Burton worked as a part-time custodian at Fellowship Baptist Church and that Casey knew about a secret underground room. Samantha deals with a pregnancy complication that requires bed rest and she reconciles with Will. Samantha researches Burton’s ex-wife and discovers she has an adult daughter Ashley who is a dead ringer for Rachel Kersey and her twin sister, Evelyn. An interview with Ashley reveals that Casey had a sexual relationship with Tommy and Burton had a falling out with Kevin Mcdonald. Samantha and Parra visit the grounds of the Fellowship Baptist Church which is now an International School and make a disturbing discovery of child porn, blood evidence, and a circular saw in a secret underground room. Samantha is rushed to the hospital when she goes into labor at 35 weeks.
Samantha gives birth to a boy who is placed in the hospital NICU for breathing problems. Tommy is interrogated by the FBI and he admits that his father demanded a back-room abortion that led to Casey's death. Tommy helped bury Casey's body and kept his father's secrets. Mcdonald is arrested and charged with the murders of Casey and Sophia and the distribution of child pornography.
Samantha and Will’s baby makes a full recovery and they bring him home. Samantha receives one last letter from Burton after he is released from prison. In his letter, Burton describes that when he found pornographic pictures of Tommy and Casey at Fellowship Baptist Church, he kept them as leverage over Macdonald to keep Tommy safe from future abuse. He and his wife then decided to take Rachel with them to Oklahoma. Burton admits to blackmailing Mcdonald when he became wealthy and finds himself in jail for a rape he did not commit when Mcdonald abuses his power. Finally free of his painful childhood secret, Tommy makes a full recovery and his band releases a new song that climbs the charts.

Why This Story Now?
The Hiding Place was inspired by a true-crime story of a former church pastor and his wife from Burnet, Texas accused of felony child sex abuse of their own daughter after she came forward and reported the abuse to authorities. Disturbing stories of child sex abuse by clergy have dominated the news for the last decade. In real life, justice for the victims is often delayed or never realized. Exploration of this difficult topic in film allows the audience to experience closure and hope that victims can recover and lead productive lives.

Submitted: May 31, 2019
Last Updated: February 25, 2020
Times Downloaded: 2
Last Downloaded: February 25, 2020

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The Writer: Holly Jurbergs

Who am I? I’m the tall person standing next to you. Randy Newman wrote a great song about it called “Short People.” You can find it on his album “Little Criminals.” Seriously, people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. It’s a beautiful thing. My love for science and music always informs and influences my writing. After completing a Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Texas at Austin in 1996, I worked as an Analytical Chemist in pharmaceutical and agricultural chemical companies. I've played piano since I was eight-years-old and more recently I have taken up guitar. I love to sing, but you may or may not want to listen. I believe music is the one of most powerful forces for uniting... Go to bio

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