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I Just Killed My Dad Review: The Netflix true crime series recalls a teenager’s violent response to years of abuse

Nightmare dads and father figures have been featured in a sobering array of documentaries this year, from Girl in the Picture to Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey to Our Father to Captive Audience and the fictional but fact-based limited edition Under the Banner of Heaven and The Staircase series — and the pattern continues with the Netflix series I Just Killed My Dad. This is an in-depth look at an infamous case in which a 17-year-old boy in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, called 911 on June 3, 2019 and confessed to killing his father.

Directed by true crime documentary filmmaker Skye Borgman (“Kidnapped in Public,” “The Girl in the Picture”), the three-part series begins with 18-year-old Anthony Templet sitting down for an interview and saying it said it was important for him to tell his story because “my life is on the line and I want people to know I’m not crazy and I’m not a murderer and I’m innocent.” Cut to the audio of that 911 call , during which Templet, then 17, said in a matter-of-fact voice, “I just killed my father. What do I have to tell you?”

We know the formula for these true crime documents. After the haunting opening title sequence, we get sit-down interviews with many of the surviving directors involved in the case; archived news footage and police interrogation records; home video and audio; gruesome crime scene photos and shadowy recreations of specific events. It’s a relatively simple blueprint – but it takes a skilled director who knows how to lay out the story (and get the interview topics to open up) as well as sensible editing to maintain a focused and intriguing plot. “I Just Killed My Dad” does it all pretty well.

“I just killed my father”

After Anthony Templet called 911 in the middle of the night, police arrived and found the body of Anthony’s father, Burt, who had been shot. Detectives involved in the investigation, as well as East Baton Rouge Assistant District Attorney Dana Cummings, speak about the fact that Anthony showed virtually no emotion and spoke in flat, monotonous language. (“I don’t really like him,” Anthony says matter-of-factly during an interrogation the morning after the shooting.)

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Young Anthony Templet is seen with father Burt in a stock photo from I Just Killed My Dad.

Something was… off. During the first interview, Anthony was not sure of his date of birth or address. In flashbacks, we learn that Burt Templet was a controlling, manipulative man who kept Anthony away from his school, isolated him from other family members, followed Anthony’s every move, and abused Anthony. Over the years, Anthony’s stepmother, among others, found Anthony odd and almost callous. (“I don’t know if he has empathy,” says Assistant DA Cummings.)

What at first seemed like a made-up murder case was much more complicated. “Once you understood the bigger picture of this young man’s life,” says one observer, “and when you understood the totality of his experience of never being able to escape his father, it became clear that Anthony wanted the abuse to stop, and the only way to stop it was to kill his father.

In March 2021, Anthony Templet was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to five years probation. Everyone involved in the case, including the prosecution, showed remarkable compassion and agreed that this was a young man who never had a life and deserved the chance to try one. It’s not going to be easy, as we see in a final, haunting, unforgettable shot of a silent Anthony struggling with his emotions.

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