Murder, She Wrote 7.1 “Trials and Tribulations”

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The episode starts with convicted felon Eddie Stone attempting to break out of prison. The attempt is unsuccessful and his getaway car is gunned down by guards and crashes—resulting in Eddie’s death.

Fast forward a short while and we find Jessica Fletcher in New York city getting served a subpoena to appear in court. Apparently, Eddie Stone’s daughter is suing her for 50 million dollars, accusing Jessica of falsifying testimony that resulted in her father’s conviction. Apparently, Angelo Vitello, a taxi driver who was initially a witness in the case, rescinded his testimony and said that Jessica Fletcher paid him to lie on the stand. Of course, this means that Jessica must get to the bottom of this and clear her good name!

Jessica Fletcher in a police station lineup.

Just the facts:

Click on the text below to reveal spoilers.

Click to reveal the victim It was Angelo Vitello!
Click to reveal the killer It was suicide (although it was made to look like murder after the fact by Angelo’s wife Beatrice)!
Click to reveal the weapon It was a lethal injection of dextrose, which put him in a coma due to his diabetes and general failing health!
Click to reveal the location It was in his own living room!
Click to reveal the motive Angelo was wracked with guilt for rescinding his testimony after accepting money from Eddie Stone’s daughter’s lawyer! He also didn’t want his failing health to become a financial burden for his wife.

Cast of characters:

The mystery starts with a convict’s attempt to break out of jail:

  • Gerry Okuneff plays Eddie Stone, an escaped convict who was initially put behind bars due to Jessica Fletcher’s investigation. (This is his third and final appearance on MSW. He previously appeared in “The Last Flight of the Dixie Damsel” and “Showdown in Saskatchewan“.)
  • Ron Troncatty (a.k.a. Ron Tron) as the driver that helps Eddie escape from prison. (This is his second and final appearance on MSW. He was previously credited as a P.A. Announcer in “Showdown in Saskatchewan“.)

And the mystery continues by introducing the convict’s daughter and her friends/associates:

  • Carrie Hamilton plays Geraldine Stone, Eddie’s daughter.
  • George Maharis as Charlie Emmet Cosmo, Esq., Geraldine’s lawyer. (This is Maharis’ second and final appearance on MSW. He previously appeared in “The Fixer-Upper“.)
  • Michael Beck plays Justin Fields, Geraldine’s boyfriend and a pastry chef hoping to open up his own restaurant. (This is Beck’s second of three total appearances on MSW. He previously appeared in “The Search for Peter Kerry“.)
  • George Hearn plays Elliott Von Stuben, Justin’s boss and restaurant owner. (This is Hearn’s first of three total appearances on MSW. He also played Sweeney Todd on stage with Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett.)

There are also people who were involved with the original investigation that put Eddie Stone behind bars:

  • Molly Cheek plays Anne Stephenson, the prosecuting attorney who is now up for the District Attorney position.
  • Stephen Furst plays Sgt. Paulsen, whose senior partner was in charge of the investigation. (Furst played Kent Dorfman, fraternity pledge in Animal House.)
  • Kim Hunter plays Beatrice Vitello whose husband testified against Eddie Stone, and who is now rescinding his testimony.
    • Note: The actor playing Angelo Vitello, Beatrice’s husband and the cab driver who testified against Eddie Stone, was not credited in this episode. This is likely because he did not have a speaking part.

Plus, as usual, a handful of minor characters. Notably:

  • Ben Masters as Ray Dandridge, Jessica’s insurance company’s attorney. (This is Masters’ first of three total appearances on MSW.)
  • Richard Hoyt-Miller as a waiter in his second and final appearance on MSW.
  • Thom Keane as another waiter in his second and final appearance on MSW.
  • Joe Nesnow as a cabdriver in his second and final appearance on MSW.
  • Vincent J. McEveety as a guard in his first of two appearances on MSW. McEveety was actually an assistant director on the show.

Final thoughts and other trivia:

The main thing to note about this episode is that, although it references a case in which Jessica Fletcher helped with the investigation, this was an investigation that happened off-camera. In other words, the arrest of Eddie Stone was not a case that featured in any of the previous episodes.

The second notable thing about this episode is that it marks the first appearance of George Hearn on the show. This makes the episode a bit of a reunion for George Hearn and Angela Lansbury since they appeared together in the 1982 National Tour of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1982). You can stream a recording of that play here or here. You can also purchase it on DVD.

Finally, in doing research about this episode, I happened to learn that Molly Cheek (who plays the prosecuting attorney in this episode), has co-authored a book with Debbie Zipp (a.k.a. Donna Mayberry-Fletcher) on acting called The Aspiring Actor’s Handbook.

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