Disclosure: The following contains affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may receive a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. Click here to read the full Affiliate Disclosure.
Jessica Fletcher is back in New York City, this time teaching a university extension course in Creative Writing at St. Julian’s parish. The class involves a discussion of unique murder methods, and Jessica suggests the students consult her personal bibliography — which includes The Toxic Handbook by Milner (not a real book as far as I’ve been able to find).
Meanwhile, the hottest thing on the news at the time (as we see in footage from WRQE—not a real TV station) is the dramatic murder trial of Frank Fernandez, who has been accused of murdering City Councilman Roberto Galvan (the father of one of Jessica’s students). Due to lack of evidence (and a lack of body, since Roberto Galvan had disappeared 11 months ago and was never found), Frank Fernandez was acquitted!
Just the facts:
Click on the text below to reveal spoilers.
Click to reveal the victimAlthough the episode starts with the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Roberto Galvan 11 months prior, there is another murder that happens during the events of the episode: that of Frank Fernandez!
Click to reveal the killerIt was Raymond Fernandez (in both cases)!
Click to reveal the weaponRoberto Galvan was killed by a gunshot to the head from Frank Fernandez’s gun; whereas Frank Fernandez was killed by being sprayed with toxic plant extracts inside a confessional booth at St. Julian’s church.
Click to reveal the locationRoberto Galvan’s body was ultimately found in the old west culverts (after recent flooding dislodged his body). Frank Fernandez was attached in the confessional booth, but ultimately died in front of the altar at St. Julian’s church!
Click to reveal the motiveBoth murders were done to cover up the killer’s drug dealing enterprise!
Click to reveal the major clueThere were several poorly planted clues that were meant to frame Jose Galvan for the murder (i.e. the jacket with the missing letter; and the book about poisons taken out of the library under his name). However, the biggest clue was the classic one of the murderer slipping up and revealing something that only the murderer could have known—in this case that the victim was attacked in the confessional.
Cast of characters:
At the heart of the mystery are Jessica’s creative writing students who are tied to the disappearance of Roberto Galvan. They can be grouped based on their associations to two main families: the Galvan family and the Fernandez family.
The Galvan family and associates include:
- Rosanna Desoto as Maria Galvan, the wife of the murdered Roberto Galvan. This is DeSoto’s second of three total appearances on MSW; she previously appeared in “Showdown in Saskatchewan“.
- Raymond Cruz as José ‘Joseph’ Galvan (also referred to as “Joe” on the show), the older son of Roberto Galvan and also Jessica’s student.
- Judith Jones as Ruth Nelson, Joe’s girlfriend/fiancée and also a student in Jessica’s class. This is Jones’ first of two appearances on MSW.
- Mark Adair Rios as Tony Galvan, the younger son of Roberto Galvan.
The Fernandez family and associates include:
- Ismael East Carlo as Frank Fernandez, a slum lord acquitted for the murder of Roberto Galvan. This is Carlo’s second of three total appearances on MSW; he previously appeared in “Day of the Dead“.
- Dan Ferro as Raymond Fernandez, Frank’s son who has ambitions of expanding the family business beyond cheap real estate. This is Ferro’s first of two total appearances on MSW.
- Valerie Dillman as Denise Dillard, Raymond’s girlfriend and also a student in Jessica’s class.
- Juan A. Riojas as Manuel “Manny”, Raymond’s associate.
Two additional major roles in this episode include:
- Robert Beltran as Father Michael, the parish priest at St. Julian’s and an illegitimate son of Frank Fernandez. (We learn that prior to becoming a priest, Father Michael was a PhD who built a successful software company.) This is Beltran’s first of two total appearances on MSW. Beltran is best known for his portrayal of Chakotay on Star Trek: Voyager.
- Julius Carry as Sergeant Davis, the police detective in charge of investigating Roberto Galvan’s disappearance and death.
Additional minor roles credited in this episode include:
- Keri Johnson as a Teen Boy playing basketball at St. Julian’s church.
- Larry Carroll as a Telecaster presenting the news of Frank Fernandez’s acquittal. This is Carroll’s second and final appearance on MSW; he previously appeared in “Incident in Lot 7” (also as a news presenter). Larry Carroll really was a TV news presenter and played the same role in many movies and TV shows. The best source I could find that outlines his career and on screen appearances is a page that appears on a Mork and Mindy wiki fan site.
- Sonia Jackson as a Librarian at the college library.
Final thoughts and other trivia:
Those who have been binge-watching Murder, She Wrote might recognize St. Julian’s church as the same one that was used in the opening of “The Search for Peter Kerry” way back in Season 5. The church is actually the First Congregational Church in Los Angeles. In addition to exterior shots of the front of the church, “Double Jeopardy” also filmed some scenes in the church courtyard. However, it appears that scenes which take place in the interior of the church were likely filmed elsewhere.
I also found it interesting to hear Jessica’s discussion with Father Michael regarding mystery novels that featured religious persons. In particular, Father Michael mentions the character of Father Dowling, which appeared in a series of novels by Ralph McInerny. This is particularly interesting because Tom Bosley, who used to play Sheriff Tupper on MSW, left the series at the end of Season 4 in order to star as the character in the TV series Father Dowling Mysteries.
Additional characters and book series mentioned during the same conversation include:
- Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton (which has also been adapted into multiple TV series, most recently one starring Mark Williams)
- Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters (which was also adapted into a TV series starring Derek Jacobi)
- Sister Mary Helen by Sister Carol Anne O’Marie
- Sister Joan by Veronica Black
- Sister Mary Teresa by Monica Quill (this series is apparently out of print, but it’s still possible to find used copies of the books)
- Rabbi Small by Harry Kemelman
Out of all of the above, I’ve only read the Father Brown stories and really enjoyed them. But I’ve now added the rest to my “To-Read” list 🙂