An explosion that shocked Naples nearly 25 years ago and spawned a handful of “true-crime” books is now attracting attention from afar — specifically a British film crew that is scheduled to produce documentaries for the likes of the BBC and Discovery cable channels.
World Media Rights of London alerted the Daily News that it is producing 13 hour-long programs focusing on the history of forensics. The first program will center on “Fire & Explosives.”
That’s where Naples comes in.
On the morning of July 9, 1985, a pipe bomb tore apart a Chevrolet Suburban in the driveway of an upscale Quail Creek home, killing two and leaving a third with horrible injuries.
On Aug. 7, 1986, Steven Wayne Benson was found guilty of the bombing deaths of his mother and adopted brother. His sister survived. Her testimony, especially the parts on how Benson invited his family into the Suburban for an in-town trip then left to retrieve something from inside the house just before the bomb went off, was read back to the jurors just before they reached the guilty verdict.
That resulted in a rare “extra” edition of the Daily News, then an afternoon paper. Less than an hour after the 1:30 p.m. verdict was read, our press was rolling with a 108-point headline that shouted “Benson Guilty.”
The motive was money, prosecutors said. Benson, who is serving a life sentence in a Florida prison, feared he was going to lose out on his share of the inheritance and killed his wealthy mother.
The prosecution’s case relied heavily on stellar forensic work done by the Collier County Sheriff’s Office and other law-enforcement agencies. That’s the part that interests World Media Rights the most. The script calls for an interview with Harold Young, who was the sheriff’s lead investigator at the time. The production company also has asked the Daily News for archived front pages. The Aug. 7, 1986, “extra” will likely be of interest.
A look back at our coverage of a story that made headlines worldwide shows that the key members of our news team are still with us. The lead reporter was Brent Batten, who went on to be city editor and is now our political columnist. The lead photographer was Eric Strachan, who is now our senior managing editor. The news desk editor who rushed to put together the “extra” edition back in 1986 was Jeff Lytle, who is now our editorial page editor.
The Benson bombing will share the 60-minute “Fire & Explosives” episode with the 1988 Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, and the 1990 Happy Land social-club arson in New York City that killed 87 people.
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It’s been nearly two months since we unveiled a redesigned Daily News and we are still making changes based on what we hear from readers.
Here are some tweaks from this past week:
We slightly increased the size of the type of the captions beneath photographs to improve readability.
We moved our daily crime reports farther back in the A section. Readers said the anchoring of crime briefs on Page 4A each day overshadowed more important local news that was found deeper in the A section.
We dropped the world map with our “Daily Briefing” of national and international news. The map will be replaced by a news photo from some important world or national event.
Let us know what you think. We are still listening.
Phil Lewis is editor of the Daily News. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org