Scott D. Pierce: Tapes of Bundy, Bishop and Hi-Fi killers at the Utah State prison are the centerpiece of true-crime docuseries

Utah state prison psychologist recorded his interviews with many murderers.

(Associated Press file photo) Convicted murderer Ted Bundy, shown in a Miami courtroom in 1979. Bundy is one of the killers talked about in the true-crime docuseries “Violent Minds: Killers on Tape,” airing on Oxygen and replaying on Peacock.

Some of Utah’s most notorious killers are front and center in a new, nine-part, true-crime series on Oxygen. “Violent Minds: Killers on Tape” features prison interviews with Ted Bundy, Arthur Gary Bishop and the Hi-Fi Killers, among others.

And hearing them speak is chilling.

The series is drawn from the recordings and notes of Al Carlisle, who was a psychologist at the Utah State Prison for two decades. “This is a story about how we need to understand how normal-seeming people can become absolute monsters,” Carlisle said.

After he died in 2018, Carlisle’s family discovered more than 650 hours of tapes from his prison interviews — a macabre treasure trove. Bundy, who is believed to have killed at least five Utah women (he confessed to eight), said his “darker side” told him to kill.

Episode 3 (running Sunday, April 9) features interviews with Hi-Fi killers Pierre Dale Selby and William Andrews, who were executed for the horrific murders of three, and attempted murders of two others, at the Hi-Fi Shop in Ogden. The victims were forced to drink Drano, shot and strangled — and one had a pen kicked into his ear.

{File photo) Dale Pierre Selby was executed in 1987 for killing three people in Ogden's Hi-Fi Shop.

Bishop, who molested dozens of young boys and murdered five between the ages of 4 and 13, said he killed “because, at one point, it became enjoyable for me.”

According to Oxygen, in Episode 5 (on April 23), “Carlisle’s Mormon faith is tested when Arthur Gary Bishop asks for his help in understanding how he became a serial killer.”

(Only the first two episodes were made available to TV critics.)

With all of Carlisle’s material to draw on, this is a fascinating premise for a true-crime docuseries. And it’s not just these three cases, there are several others — including one involving a Vietnam War veteran and another a killer with amnesia.

{File photo) In 1988, Arthur Gary Bishop was executed after he was convicted of murdering four young boys.

Unfortunately, at least in the first two episodes, the promise of the premise is not fulfilled. (The episodes air at 5 and 6 p.m. on Dish and DirecTV; 8 and 9 p.m. on Comcast). It’s fascinating as the first episode recounts how Carlisle interviewed Bundy after he was convicted of aggravated kidnapping (no audio of those interviews, unfortunately) and interviewed Bundy’s mother, ex-girlfriends and acquaintances (there is audio of those phone calls), leading to Bundy being sentenced to 15 years in prison.

But then the narrative devolves into just another retelling of Bundy’s crimes — and there have been too many of those to count. Other than bits and pieces about Carlisle’s involvement, there’s nothing new here.

It’s not hard to see why “Violent Minds” would start with Bundy. He’a the most high-profile of the killers who will be featured in the series, and no doubt the producers and Oxygen execs think he’s their best shot at attracting an audience. The Hi-Fi killings were in 1974 and Bishop murdered those boys between 1979 and 1983, so even younger Utahns and move-ins are unaware of them.

Not to mention that there have been so many horrific crimes in the past 40-to-50 years that the memory of these murders has faded.

There are, unfortunately, a couple of unforced errors in the first five minutes of the first episode. Carlisle’s former assistant says that, “While he was in college, he got fascinated by Charles Manson,” so Carlisle decided to study psychology. She seems to believe that, but not much of anybody had heard of that Manson until the string of murders in 1969, the year that Carlisle turned 32 and started work at the Utah State Prison.

Clearly, Manson couldn’t have inspired Carlisle to begin studying psychology. A quick Google search would have kept that mistake out of the episode..

And during narration about Carlisle attending Utah State University, there’s an overhead shot of the University of Utah. Oops. Missed it by around 85 miles.

Neither of those errors is major, but they do make you wonder what else “Violent Minds” got wrong. And that’s unfortunate.

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