EXCLUSIVE: A podcast about the disappearance and murder of a number of Grateful Dead fans is the latest audio series to be adapted for television.
Joe Berlinger, the filmmaker behind iconic rock doc Metallica: Some Kind of Monster and a slew of true-crime docuseries, has teamed up with Wheelhouse Entertainment to develop Dead and Gone as a scripted series.
The podcast, a true crime music mystery set in the world of Jerry Garcia’s psychedelic rock band, comes from To Live and Die in LA producer Tenderfoot TV and Disgraceland producer Double Elvis.
It tells the story of how the bodies of Mary Regina Gioia, 22, and Gregory Allen Kniffin, 18, two fans of the Grateful Dead, were found in the San Francisco Bay, beaten and shot to death in August 1986.
Thirty-one-year-old Ralph International Thomas, a Black man, was arrested and sentenced to death for the murders. He died in prison in 2014, after multiple unsuccessful appeals. Dead and Gone looks deeper into Thomas’ 1986 conviction, tracking down key witnesses in the present day and coming face to face with potential new suspects, shedding new light on the question of whether Thomas was, in fact, guilty of murder.
The series will adapt season one of the show. Season two of the audio series, which follows the same format and explores various cases from the 1980s through 2004, came out last month.
Tenderfoot TV co-founder Payne Lindsay led the investigation featured in season one with Disgraceland host Jake Brennan served as co-host/narrator. The podcast was originally set to investigate multiple cases, but took an unexpected turn to focus solely on one investigation when Lindsey discovered the case likely involved a man who was wrongfully convicted.
Lindsay and Brennan will exec produce alongside Berlinger, who will also direct, Wheelhouse Entertainment’s Chief Creative Officer Scott Lonker, Tenderfoot TV co-founder Donald Albright and Double Elvis co-founder Brady Sadler.
It marks Berlinger’s latest step into the narrative world; he directed 2019 Ted Bundy feature film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, which starred Zac Efron, Lily Collins, Kaya Scoedelario and John Malkovich. He is best known for his true-crime docs including Paradise Lost, Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel and Netflix’s Conversations with a Killer strand, which features stories of Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy.
Berlinger said, “As a former Deadhead, lifelong music fan and crime and justice filmmaker, I thought I died and went to heaven when listening to Payne and Jake’s meticulously researched podcast. Dead and Gone is an incredible weave of music history, social justice, and active true-crime investigation – three areas that I have been lucky enough to explore in most of my past work as a filmmaker. There is so much potential here to not only immerse viewers in the iconic world of the Grateful Dead and their itinerant, dedicated fans, but to also dissect a troubling story of potential wrongful conviction, a story that is infused with a compelling mystery that surrounds the entire case even to this day.”
“Joe Berlinger’s contribution to the true crime space is simply unmatched, and there is no one we’d rather partner with to adapt this complex investigation to the small screen. Many people don’t realize this larger story behind the Grateful Dead, and even though they’re so associated with ideas of freewill and positivity, it’s important we draw attention to these terrible occurrences existing within the fanbase,” added co-hosts Payne Lindsey and Jake Brennan.
Dead and Gone is distributed in partnership with Cadence13. UTA represents Tenderfoot TV and Double Elvis.