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Is the Toddler Murder in Mindhunter Based on a True Story?

Mindhunter: The Toddler Murder Involving Bill Tench's Family Is Based on a Tragic True Story


Warning: season two spoilers for Mindhunter ahead!

Season two of Mindhunter returns with the chilling serial killer interview subjects that make the show a compulsive watch. But it's also a tragic installation, with its focus not only on the Atlanta child murders but also the heartbreaking case that wreaks havoc on Agent Bill Tench's family. As the season progresses, Bill's adopted son, Brian, is caught amid a case back home that involves a murdered toddler tied to a cross. While the horrifying account seems to be a made-up narrative to serve Bill's arc, it's actually based on a 1971 child crucifixion murder in San Francisco.

Early in the season, we find out that Brian has brought older boys into the home that his mother, Nancy, is trying to sell. The older children end up suffocating a toddler there and, per Brian's suggestion, tie the child to a cross. While Brian isn't directly involved in the murder, the Tench family gets mandatory visits with social workers and child psychologists, the question of Brian's custody up in the air. Tension grows as Bill travels for work and Nancy entertains the idea of moving. The fraught situation reaches a breaking point when Bill returns to an empty house at the end of the season.

The details of the real story behind this tragedy don't quite line up with Mindhunter's fictionalized account beat by beat, but they are strikingly similar. In 1971, two brothers, ages 7 and 10, were playing at Alta Plaza Park during an April afternoon. The children, respectively dubbed Billy and Bobby by the press, found 20-month-old Noah Alba lingering around the park while his mother sunbathed nearby. They brought the infant to a shabby basement nearby that served as a play area for local children. When the baby cried, they slapped him and hit him with a brick. Five days later, detectives found Noah's body tied to a makeshift wooden cross, as the boys believed that the baby could be resurrected.

The boys did not receive any charges, although the older child did spend two months in juvenile detention. Instead, the court declared them as children who lacked parental control and put them into foster care and intense therapy. Their names were never revealed, not even to the victim's family. We don't know much about their whereabouts, except that Bobby anonymously told PBS Frontline that he was working and caring for his family. His brother, on the other hand, had had trouble with the law, grappling with substance abuse and receiving two convictions of physically assaulting children.

As for the family of the crucified baby, Melanie Alba eventually split from her husband, Lawrence. Their other child at the time, a 3-year-old-girl, moved to her aunt and uncle's in Georgia but eventually moved back to California. Lawrence later remarried and started a new family out of state.

We've yet to see in which direction the series will take Bill's family. There's the unfortunate chance that Brian could be taken away from him and Nancy. Then, there's also the possibility that Brian has already been taken away, which could have prompted Nancy to pack her bags and leave. In any case, we're anxious to learn about the fate of the Tenches, should there be a third season of Mindhunter.

Image Source: Netflix
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