The Vanishing Women True Crime Documentary Postmortem, Chills in Chillicothe

An autopsy on The Vanishing Women true crime documentary

Warning: The following contains spoilers and is provided as a recap of The Vanishing Women. Read at your own peril.

The Vanishing Women is a six-part series about, conveniently, six different women who may or may not be connected by more than their zip code. 

Our setting is Chillicothe, Ohio. The only fun thing in town seems to be saying the name. It’s a drug-riddled city taken over by addiction. Many of the six women involved in this documentary have resorted to prostitution to help their addictions live on. It’s a sad reality and at the heart of the crimes committed.

The Vanishing Women documentary starts from the ending and works its way back to the beginning then proceeds in some sort of order that’s hard to follow. It doesn’t really matter. Each episode attempts to focus on a different victim with crossover in between.

All six disappearances or murders took place in 2014 or 2015 which is too conveniently close for many people. Knowing some ran in the same circles, it’s clear at least one of these cases is connected.

Investigators come to different conclusions. One case looks like a drug overdose, but who put the body in the middle of the woods? Another is ruled a suicide and yet there are doubts about whether she actually did kill herself. Then there are two more who were never found. What happened to them? It’s a mystery The Vanishing Women tries to solve.

The documentary was not sensational and instead told largely from people heavily involved in the case. Family members, friends, and law enforcement tell the story. There is no narrator doing voiceover like some true crime documentaries opt for. The mission of The Vanishing Women was to find justice, not tell a great story. They still manage to because at the end of the day, you don’t spend money to make a film of any kind just to find missing people. Who are we kidding? Documentary filmmaking is not a non-profit.

This was a case I didn’t know anything about. It’s similar to another famous case, the Jeff Davis 8. One of the rumored inspirations for the first season of True Detective, they’re either cousin crimes with a close connection or because the Jeff Davis 8 took place a few years earlier, many have led to speculating the Chillicothe cases are related, too.

The Vanishing Women does conclude with one suspect arrest, but fails to offer any others. A truly good true crime documentary needs a few things. One of them is a major lead to a conclusion even if nothing is definitive. Jason McCrary, now deceased, is the only person who gets a finger pointed at him. He points his own finger in court at an associate nicknamed Dollar Bill. It’s a great nickname but I wonder if he’s aware of how little value the dollar has these days. One-hundred dollar bill would probably get him a little more respect. You can’t even get a burger at McDonald’s for a buck these days. Speaking of, you never do meet anyone under 60 nicknamed Buck anymore, do you?

The Vanishing Women came out in 2016 but holds up when compared to more recent true crime documentaries built in the same style. It doesn’t rely on any fancy graphics but instead focuses on the raw story and the search for answers.

I really enjoyed this one. It’s honest and although I know the filmmakers wanted to get money from the story, they’re definitely setting out to solve the crime, too. Sadly, I don’t think we’ll ever get an answer as to what happened to the women involved.

Overall Score: 7 out of 10

The Vanishing Women could have been a little shorter, but for an unsolved crime, you don’t want to leave out any content. Maybe one day we get a resolution and a whole different style of documentary.

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