Amarillo murder to be highlighted in new film

Updated: Mar. 2, 2017 at 6:44 PM CST
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AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - A notorious 1980's murder case out of Amarillo is being brought into the spotlight, yet again.

Johnny Frank Garrett.

It's a name you've likely heard if you're from the area. And a new movie being released sheds some light on the case, but many are wondering just how true it stays to the real story.

On Halloween of 1981, Amarillo Nun Tadea Benz was found raped, stabbed and strangled in her room at the Saint Francis convent.

A few days later, 17-year-old Johnny Frank Garrett was arrested and charged with the murder. But he maintained his innocence, all the way up until he was put to death...leaving many questioning if the case was handled justly.

Years later, Jesse Quackenbush made a documentary highlighting the story. And it was Peter Facinelli watching the documentary, that brought an idea to fruition.

And now, a film will be released about the case.

But it's a bit different. It's a horror film called Johnny Frank Garrett's Last Word.

"The family was okay with it and their position was pretty much the more widely that the story is distributed hopefully the more impact it might have in helping the system along," says Quackenbush.

"There is a call for social justice in this case because I think everyone who worked on the film felt that Johnny was innocent and to this day of course he still has not been declared innocent and has not been pardoned," says film Director Simon Rumley.

Rumley says the film was shot in Shreveport, LA, as many in Amarillo did not seem content with allowing the company to shoot various locations.

While it does show the facts and outcome of the trial, it focuses on what happened after Johnny's death. Some call it a "curse" as people involved in Johnny's guilty verdict began experiencing heartache and even death.

"One thing that we were very careful to do was not to sensationalize the deaths too much and make them as real as possible," says Rumley. "So certainly there was maybe 4 or 5 deaths in the film, most of those apart from maybe one are actually very close if not identical to the actual deaths in real life."

Both Quackenbush and Rumley hope the film will spark people's interest in the case.

"I think they're satisfied with the progress of the film and leaving the final judgment up to the court of public opinion."

Johnny Frank Garrett's Last Word will be available on VOD, DVD and Blu-ray Disc March 14th from Momentum Pictures.

You can view the trailer, here.

Rumley and Quackenbush encourage you to watch The Last Word Documentary prior to the film, to get a better understanding of the case.

To view an extended interview with Director Simon Rumley, view below.

If you're viewing this story on a mobile device, click here to view the interview.

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