The first episode of Fargo, Season 2 involves Kirsten Dunst as Peggy Blomquist, a butcher’s wife who lets her denial of reality wrap them both up in a dizzying coverup. In a bit of maddening irony, the victim of Peggy’s hit-and-run, Rye Gerhardt, just shot three people at a Waffle Hut and was involved in a complex crime scheme. If she had just notified police, the investigation would be far more neat and tidy. Instead, she drove her car home, parked it in the garage, and went on about her evening as if nothing had happened. It’s only when the Blomquists’ tater tot and Hamburger Helper dinner was interrupted by horrifying noises that reality crashes in around them, and the couple fully commit to a life of dreadful secrets. Some of the details of this darkly comedic scenario are inspired by a true events from over a decade ago.
In the early morning hours of Oct. 26, 2001, in Fort Worth Texas, 26-year-old Chante Mallard hit a homeless man with her car after a night of partying. Her friend, Titilisee Fry had asked her to spend the night, but Chante insisted she was fine to drive. The man, 37-year-old Gregory Biggs, had been staying at a homeless shelter. According to one of Chante’s later accounts she unsuccessfully tried to remove Biggs from her car before driving home with him still in her windshield.
Because it was so early, she passed no one on the road, and her neighbors didn’t see her pull into her garage. It’s unclear exactly when he died, but expert testimony at her trial asserted Gregory Biggs would have survived his injuries if he had received immediate medical help. Although she was a nurse’s aid who worked at a nursing home, and has dreams of furthering her medical education, she offered Biggs no help. After she was caught, Chante said in a statement, “I wanted to take him to the hospital but I was so scared.”
Chante told police she kept returning to Biggs to tell him she was sorry. Of course, apologies mean little when there is actual help that can be offered. “Sorry” seems like a cruel gesture in these circumstances. However, she told her friends a different version of events. According to testimonies from her friend, she had sex with her boyfriend after she returned home, and then they both went into the garage to check on Briggs, who was begging for his life. They went back inside and Chante decided not to do anything further until he had passed.
Once Chante was sure he was dead, she called her ex-boyfriend Clete “Vaughn” Denel Jackson. Vaughn called his cousin Herbert “Tyrone” Cleveland, and the three of them deposited Biggs’ body in a nearby park where he was discovered the next day.
“I said, `We ain’t going to burn nobody.’ We’re going to put him somewhere so his family can find him so they can bury him, because it was an accident,” Jackson said at his trial. Just a few months later Chante was laughing about the incident at a party. “I hit this white man,” she said, explaining why she couldn’t drive her 1997 Chevrolet Cavalier anymore. A friend called the police with her information, and a search warrant uncovered bloodstains, a dented car, and the passenger’s seat in her back yard, burned from an attempt to destroy the evidence. “I’m not a bad person,” she told the police during the search. “It was an accident. It happened so fast. I’ve never even had a speeding ticket.”
Mallard was tearful and distraught throughout her trial, but the jurors just couldn’t see past how she acted immediately following the murder. “I am so truly sorry. I am so sorry, Brandon. I am so sorry for what I have caused your family and I am sorry for the pain I have put my family through,” she said to Biggs’ 20-year-old son. “I am so sorry for the crime I’ve done to society, I really am very sorry.”
“More damaging was just the way her life went back to normal a week later,” prosecuting attorney Richard Alpert said. “She’s going back to the same club, got a new boyfriend. It was just shocking.”
Her defense attorney Jeff Kearney argued that Mallard was “a person who had a whole lot of good in her but did something really horrible. The jury probably recognized it, but her conduct … was so compelling to the jury they just couldn’t get over it.”
Biggs, who showed signs of mental illness according to those close to him, had been homeless for two years prior to his death. He had plans to start rebuilding his life by working with a friend he met at a homeless shelter. This friend, Rafael Gomez, had gotten a job and was holding on to Biggs tools in the hope that they start a masonry business together, but he didn’t hear from his potential business partner for months. The next time he saw Biggs, it was in news reports about his murder.
Chante will be eligible for parole in 2027. These shocking events not only inspired and informed this season of Fargo, but was covered on episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Law & Order, and served as the basis of three different movies: 2007’s Stuck, staring Mena Suvari, 2009’s Hit and Run (Laura Breckenridge), and 2009’s Accident on Hill Road (Celina Jaitley and Farooque Shaikh.)
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