Duane Sherrill

“Hey, cuz. I just saw you on TV … again,” came the voice of my cousin from Chattanooga after I answered the phone, expecting to have a prolonged conversation that we usually have during one of her rare calls.

“Huh?” I grunted. “I’m what?”

“On TV, silly,” she said. “You’re on right now.”

“What channel?” I asked, picking up my remote.

“Investigation Discovery Channel,” she replied, already prepared for my question. “Murder in the Heartland, season three, episode seven.”

I scanned my television for the ID Channel and finally found it after surfing through the endless programming.

“I was just walking by the television and heard your voice,” she noted as I tuned in to the episode. “I can tell your voice anywhere. It’s distinctive.”

The fact she was able to pick up on my voice by just walking by the television isn’t surprising given the fact she is blind. In fact, she did the same thing about a year ago when I was on another program, that one too, oddly, about murder.

She called me about the program when it first aired, noting she heard my voice on the television and immediately knew who it was, an identification confirmed by her mother.

“Yep, that’s Duane,” her mother said while looking at me on the screen. “He could use a shave and a haircut.”

She hit the nail on the head. My first reaction to seeing myself on television wasn’t excitement, it was me critiquing the fact I had stray whiskers on my chin from the half-hearted shave that morning and that my hair was sticking up in the back as I had started to go “clown” from needing a haircut. It’s not like those real crime shows bring along a make-up artist to primp me in the Green Room.

“You ought to really invest in a good razor if you’re going to be on television all the time,” my cousin scolded. "Or so I’ve been told.”

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll get right on that,” I replied as I zoned in on the show, also noticing in one scene that I have horrible posture when I’m walking. And, alas, it would appear my bald spot is getting a bit more pronounced. Note to self, no more shots from behind on future television programs.

“So cuz (yes, she always refers to me as cuz), why is it always murder with you?” she asked. “The last time, on Snapped, it was about a murder, and the time before that on that other show, it was about murder. Are your novels coming to life?”

She has a point. I’m getting a bit type casted on television. Last year on “Snapped” – the Jerrie Bryant episode, if you want to watch it – I was interviewed about a murder I covered 15 years ago in a story I entitled “View to a Kill” about a woman who murdered, dismembered and tried to burn the body of her ex-husband, all supposedly because she wanted to keep their house that had a killer view off the side of Baker Mountain.

“Are they paying you anything for all this?” my cousin asked as I continued watching. “Pretty soon you’re going to have your own IMDb page.”

“Nope. Not a penny,” I replied, noting that thanks to COVID I even got cheated out of a free meal, which we were supposed to have during a meeting of many of those who were to appear in the episode early last year.

The episode was actually supposed to have been shot last March, but we all know what happened that month. Therefore the shooting was put off until October. I think my episode was the first they shot once they resumed filling installments of the true crime series. All of the scenes I am in were filmed here at The Tullahoma News by a two-person crew.

For those who want to watch, the episode is the true story of one of the most horrific murders in the history of Warren County, involving homicides of a woman, her 10-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old family friend who happened to be doing a sleepover back in July 1999. I was covering the crime beat over in McMinnville at the time and ended up following the story from the morning it happened until the conviction of those involved in the murders. As you can guess, despite covering scores of homicides during my 30 years in the business, this one sticks out in my mind due to the heinousness of the crime, and it profoundly impacted how folks next door in Warren County view things. I’ve always said that was the day that McMinnville ceased being Mayberry. I also knew people involved, since it’s a small community, just over half the size of Tullahoma. As you can hear me say in the episode should you decide to tune in, I’m reluctant to let my youngest son spend the night anywhere given what happened over 20 years ago.

The appearance on “Murder in the Heartland” was actually my fourth on a national network, all having to do with small-town crimes that happened just across the county line from here. Don’t ask me where to find the first two; all I know is one was another episode of “Snapped” back over a decade ago and the other “Dateline NBC” about 15 years ago.

Anyway, my cousin was just the first of many calls I got, all saying they had seen me on television. Some of the folks who reached out were people I hadn’t heard from in years.

“You’ve aged well,” one old friend who I have seen in forever said after watching the show. “But, you may want to invest in a good razor.”

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