American Murderer (2022) is a crime thriller based on the true story of FBI fugitive Jason Derek Brown, played by actor Tom Pelphrey in the movie.
Here’s the premise: A charismatic con man bankrolling his extravagant lifestyle through a series of scams. A dogged FBI special agent determined to put Brown behind bars. When Brown’s funds run low and his past catches up with him, he plots his most elaborate scheme yet, pitting himself against Leising in a deadly game of cat and mouse — and becoming the most unlikely and elusive fugitive on the FBI’s most-wanted list.
On Episode 231 of FBI Retired Case File Review, retired agent Lance Leising reviewed the investigation the movie was based on. He was the case aget. and in the movie, Lance is played by actor Ryan Phillippe. Jami Brown Martin, Jason Brown’s sister, was also a guest on the podcast episode.
You can listen to Lance Leising and Jami Brown Martin’s case review here:
At the time of the podcast interview, Jason Brown had been at large for nearly 18 years and on the FBI’s Most Wanted list since 2007. Brown has not been apprehended, but shortly after the movie was released, he was removed from the list because the FBI did not expect his continued placement to result in any additional information that would lead to his capture.
The movie description fails to sufficiently highlight that Brown is wanted for the execution-style murder and armed robbery of Keith Palomares, a 24-year-old armored car guard.
When American Murderer was first released, I contacted Lance to ask him what he thought about the movie and learned he had not watched it. Recently, he told me he still hasn’t and had no plans to do so. It disturbs him that, although their true names were used in the movie, the producers did not contact or consult with the family of Keith Palomares or him before filming. The movie portrays the FBI investigation in Phoenix as starting before November 2004, when Brown ambushed and murdered Palomares while he was carrying the weekend deposits of a movie theater to the armored car and then fled with the money. Lance told me that although the Secret Service had opened a credit card fraud investigation prior to that, his FBI investigation was initiated at the time of the Hobbs Act robbery of the armored car and the resulting homicide.
It often frustrates agents when modifications are made to true FBI tales. Even when the words “based on a true story” or “based on real events” appear on the movie poster, the screenwriters may significantly change the facts of the story. These creative compromises may capture and engage the viewer, but it also leaves them with a distorted perspective of historical events.
In that I focus my reviews on teachable moments in the FBI movies I watch, I thought I would cover how it is decided that a fugitive should be added to the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list. According to the FBI website, the individual must have a lengthy record of committing serious crimes and/or be considered a particularly dangerous menace to society due to current criminal charges. Second, it must be believed that the nationwide publicity afforded by the program can be of assistance in apprehending the fugitive, who, in turn, should not already be notorious because of other publicity.
The list has been in existence since March 14, 1950. A reporter for the International News Service (the predecessor to United Press International) asked the Bureau for the names and descriptions of the “toughest guys” the Bureau would like to capture.
The resulting story generated so much publicity and had so much appeal that late FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover implemented the “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” program. You can read more about Ten Most Wanted Fugitives program here.