The snow had gathered on the yard and my boys had rushed out the door. I looked from the window as they rolled a small snowball into the base of a traditional snowman. Watching their fun reminded me of a fiasco I experienced a few winters ago. It could have happened to anyone, really, so please consider this a public service announcement.
It was after a huge snowstorm and my two sons had built snowmen in the backyard. This was around the time that “Making a Murderer” was a huge show. I had just bought a new documentary camera, so I thought it would be hilarious to chop the snowmen’s heads off, spread splashes of red food coloring around, and then make my own short documentary about a family of snow-people who were brutally murdered. Some people do family home evening. This is how we roll, and we went all out.
We interviewed fake detectives who were investigating the “heinous crime,” fake witnesses who’d heard the non-existent screams, and showed a fake lineup where it was just snowmen silhouettes.
I edited it all together and titled the faux-documentary “It’s Snow Making a Murderer.” I was very proud of it and invited all of my friends over, locked the doors behind them and made them watch it. If they complimented it, I would give them a chance to escape. Most complimented it eventually.
A couple days later, I heard a knock on my door. It was a police officer. Apparently there was an elderly gentleman missing from a nearby rest home. He showed me a picture and I told him I hadn’t seen the man.
That was when I saw out of the corner of my eye, through a window, another officer walking in my backyard.
The cop at the door said, “Don’t worry, my partner is just checking all the yards for signs of the man.”
I shrugged, totally forgetting about what the cop would find. The officer at the door was in the middle of saying goodbye when his partner came around the corner and said, “We have a few more questions.”
By this time, neighbors were looking out windows to watch. The officer took me to the backyard. The sun had mostly melted the snowmen into unrecognizable lumps, but it had not melted the snow enough to get rid of the splashes of blood spread across the yard in a very murdery way. Blood really pops against snow. Plus, there were still two bloody knives lying on the ground.
“I can explain,” I said, freaking out just a little. I told them about the completely innocent mockumentary I’d filmed about the brutal murder of a fictional snow family (I know, as opposed to a real snow family). I even said the word “brutal” and mimicked the knife stabbing gesture. The officers seemed to be skeptical, so I offered to show the documentary to them. We could make popcorn. Instead, they just took sticks and poked the lumps in the snow, making sure there were indeed no real bodies underneath, and then picked up the knives and smelled the food coloring on the pointy parts.
They left without arresting me, but not before a lot of hesitation. I never learned if they found that elderly man, I sure hope they did.
So — here’s the news you can use part — the next time you stage a murder scene in your backyard for entertainment purposes, clean it up before the cops come around asking questions.
With this sage advice, I sent my boys outside with a couple of knives, red food coloring and a smile. As they went out the door, I waved and said, in my most motherly voice, “Bye, boys! Make it look real!”
Brodi Ashton is a New York Times best-selling author who lives in the Salt Lake City area. She’s also an occasional columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.