This movie is based on insurance fraud death case of Deanna Wilds. Deanna left Kentucky and stayed with Jimmy Coates' parents, Virginia Rearden and Billie Joe McGinnis. A few months later, she allegedly fell to her death. Her mother did not believe this and decided to investigate. A tenacious insurance fraud investigator determined that Rearden and McGinnnis pushed the girl off of a cliff to collect the insurance money. Virginia Rearden was convicted of murder.
Had it not been for the movie "Death Benefit" I might never have known who inspired the movie "Justice for Annie." These two movies were based on the story of Deanna Wild. In both movies Deanna Wild was named something else, I think Melissa in one and I forget who in the other. The actual story of this case was shocking. Both movies stuck very closely to the original story. I have provided the actual photos of the moments before Deanna's fall, courtesy of various books. Deanna Wild was shoved from the cliff at Big Sur on April 2, 1987. It took them quite a while to locate her body, and when they did locate it they had a difficult time reaching it due to the cliff's steepness. When they reached her she was lying face down. Her feet were badly bruised and her left leg was twisted at an awkward angle, and her fingernails were all broken as if she had been clawing at the side of the cliff for life. She died from 'basal brain lacerations' caused by a deep cut to her head causing her death in minutes.
According to some witnesses, Bj and Virginia were sitting in their car while the search was going on looking very unconcerned. Instead of being out and trying to aid in the search they sat their expressionless. When they finally told the couple they had located the body Bj and Virginia looked more relieved than anything. No one actually saw Deanna's fall.
It is also amazing to me the number of death's that surrounded Virginia Rearden Mcginnis. The deputy who helped recover the body of Deanna suddenly committed suicide not long after the fall, Dick Coates, Virginia's first husband, and the only link to her past, jumped from a bridge to his death before the trial started, and Billie Joe Mcginnis died of Aids related pneumonia before he could be tried and convicted of the murder of Deanna. It has also been hinted that Virginia, being a nurse, might have deliberately infected her husband with the aids virus through a needle, but this was never confirmed. At trial some of Deanna's old friends really tried to smear her name, painting her as a heavy drug user and a woman with no morals. Deanna was still married to her first husband Jay Wild who was still in the service at the time of her death; he came home to bury Deanna.