Murder, She Wrote 5.5 “Coal Miner’s Slaughter”

Jessica’s old student from Cabot Cove, Molly Connors, makes a grand entrance at the “Coal Miner’s Shindig: Celebrating Top Productivity” in order to announce that she will be suing the Colton Mining Company’s owner for the wrongful death of her father. She is promply arrested for trespassing and calls Jessica to bail her out. Of course, rather than wiring the money, Jessica heads out to Colton, West Virginia in person.

Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but if I ever needed someone to bail me out of jail, I wouldn’t immediately think to call my old high school teacher. But such is the magic of Jessica Fletcher.

In terms of location, this is another fictional but plausible location. There is no town named Colton in West Virginia, but there is a Coalton. The show also mentions that Colton is 50 miles away from the slightly bigger Yanceyville, but again there’s no such town in West Virginia (although towns by that name seem to exist in Virginia and North Carolina).

Just the facts ma’am:

Spoilers are in white font, so highlight the text below to reveal the answers.

  • The victim was… the coal mine owner!
  • killed by… the miner’s union rep!
  • in… his cabin, which few people get invited to!
  • with… the victim’s rifle–straight through the heart!
  • because… he was threatening to expose their financial arrangement!
  • vital clues: the location of the gun rack.

Additionally, the story revolves around the death of Molly Connor’s father some 10 years prior in a mining explosion. The person responsible for the death as well as the motive are the same as for the murder outlined above.

Cast of characters:

For most of the actors in this episode, this is their only appearance on Murder, She Wrote.

  • At the center of the story is Molly Connors (left), played by Megan Mullally (who will go on to star in Will and Grace) in her only appearance on MSW. Molly Connors moved from Colton to Cabot Cove with her mother following the death of her father.
  • Denver Pyle (right) plays her grandfather Eben Connors in his only appearance on MSW. Pyle had a major recurring role on The Dukes of Hazzard.

Additional major cast includes the Morgan family, who own the local mining company:

  • Chuck Connors (left) plays the patriarch Tyler Morgan in his second and final appearance on MSW.
  • Barbara Bain (center) plays the matriarch Nora Morgan in her first of two total appearances on MSW. Bain is best known for co-starring in the original Mission: Impossible TV show.
  • William R. Moses (right) plays their son Reese Morgan in his first and only appearance on MSW. Moses went on to have a recurring role in the Perry Mason reboot TV movies of the 90s.

The remainder of the cast includes:

  • Marilyn Jones (left) as local boarding house owner, Bridie Harmon, in her first of three total appearances on MSW.
  • Jared Rushton (right) as her son Travis Harmon in his only appearance on MSW. Rushton was a popular child actor who co-starred with Tom Hanks in Big.
  • Hoyt Axton (left) as Sheriff Tate in his only appearance on MSW. Axton was also known for being a folk singer-songwriter.
  • Cliff De Young (right) as the miner’s union representative, Carlton Reid, in his second of three total appearances on MSW. De Young previously appeared in the episode “Murder Through the Looking Glass“.

Final thoughts:

Several sets used in previous episodes of Murder, She Wrote make an appearance again.

For one, the exterior of the sheriff’s office in Colton, WV is the same as the sheriff’s office used in S2E15 “Powder Keg”.

Additionally, the interior of the Morgan family’s house is the same as the Appletree sister’s house in “Mr. Penroy’s Vacation” just a couple episodes prior.

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