Amanda O’Donnell: “Listen, there’s no debate. The original 1984 long read by Jim Atkinson and John Bloom is where you should start if you’re looking to dive into this haunting story. The pair split their reporting like so: Bloom would report on Montgomery, and Atkinson would cover friend and victim, Betty Gore.”
It wasn’t easy for the residents of 1980s-era Wylie, Texas to believe the gruesome details about Betty Gore’s death. That was true especially for Candy Montgomery, a churchgoing housewife who couldn’t quite believe that Gore had been gruesomely hacked to death in her own home. Even after Montgomery admitted to the murder.
See, despite that confession—and the 41 axe wounds found on Gore’s body—Montgomery was found not guilty of murdering her friend. According to her defense, she was only able to access the memory of Gore’s killing through hypnosis (a form of testimony outlawed in 27 states), and purported her actions that day were carried out under a blind, uncontrollable rage and in self-defense, after Gore confronted Montgomery about her extramarital affair with Allan, Betty’s husband.
While the incident left a lasting mark on the town of Wylie, a recent, broader interest in the case has resurfaced with Max’s new series “Love & Death,” based on original reporting of the event by Texas Monthly magazine. To help contextualize the impact of Betty Gore’s alarming murder, I’ve gathered some links that will transport you right back to 1980 in small-town Texas with the local news and neighbors abuzz that something sinister’s happened… —Amanda O'Donnell
Image by Jon Kopaloff / Stringer / Getty Images
AO: “Oh, I should’ve mentioned it’s a long long read. While part one sets the scene and covers the stilted origins of Allan and Candy’s nearly clinical affair, part two kicks off on the day things went so tragically wrong. Montgomery hasn’t spoken to the press in decades, but she was initially eager to talk with Texas Monthly for the two-part story, believing her life was likely to return to normal after the incident.”
AO: “On the subject of houses, can a fake killing (or even killing-adjacent Hollywood filming set) also haunt a space? Texas writer Sean O’Neal didn’t think too much about agreeing to allow Max to use his Austin home as a set for the filming of ‘Love & Death.’ But the more that he thought about the story the show was telling and the real lives it depicted, the stranger he began to feel about his own house.”
AO: “Okay, so Bloom and Atkinson eventually took their two-part longread one step further—they turned Montgomery’s killing of Betty Gore into a full length book. And one that was fairly well received, and still holds up as a mandatory read if you’re looking to really dig into this story. ‘Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs’ is based on all those initial, exclusive interviews Bloom and Atkinson secured with Montgomery and other Wylie residents.”
AO: “Curious how such a dark and twisted murder case played out in small-town Texas in the 80s? Candy Evans, a North Texas real estate agent and blogger, shares more than a first name with Candy Montgomery. She sat through the trial that would see Montgomery acquitted (at the time Evans was employed by a local TV news station and covered the trial for work). Her 2016 account captures how Gore’s death and subsequent trial both shook the town and ‘put it on the map.’”
AO: That “bewildering smile”. . . This archival footage shows a TV newscast of Montgomery surrendering to authorities displaying an unnervingly calm demeanor. Watch the full video and you’ll see Montgomery’s lawyer (who she knew through church) talking about “the single fingerprint” he believes police have as evidence against Montgomery.
AO: “At this point in your reading, you’ve seen the words ‘Marriage Encounter’ a few times. And if you’re anything like me, you’re a little wary of the experience they promise: a weekend getaway for married couples from an organization claiming to be the ‘largest pro-marriage movement in the world’ intended to help rekindle romance. Can you really take a marriage from ‘good to great’ within the confines of a singular heavily scheduled weekend? Allan Gore believed so when he and Betty utilized the program (amid his ongoing affair with Candy Montgomery). Read more about the still-active, church affiliated Marriage Encounter program by scrolling through its current site, and get a feel for the hope the Gores fostered for the future of the marriage before it was tragically ended.”
AO: “A killing like Betty’s has a way of taking up residence in physical spaces. This local news story from 2009 on the North Texas house where Montgomery killed Betty spotlights residents who thought they were moving into ‘just another house,’ but couldn’t quite shake the eerie feeling ever-present in the laundry room.”
AO: “This Dallas Morning News story, written 30 years after Montgomery killed Betty, was the first to report on something many are again asking: where is Candy Montgomery now? Montgomery reportedly divorced her husband, began using her maiden name and moved to Georgia where she works as a counselor for troubled youth.”
Montgomery’s lawyer’s claim of self-defense hinged on the hypnosis therapy she underwent. But ‘Hypnosis is the junkiest of junk science,’ one longtime criminal justice researcher and writer says. In fact, it’s not allowed in 27 state courtrooms, and could soon be outlawed in Texas, too.
Amanda O’Donnell is an editor at Texas Monthly magazine where she oversees digital promotion of the magazine’s stories on Texas news, politics, food, culture, and general yee-haw. She lives in Austin where she previously worked as an editor for the city’s daily newspaper, the Austin American-Statesman. She has a beloved and terrible little dog named Butter.