Is A House on Fire Based on a True Story?

Starring Stephanie March (‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit‘) and Shaun Benson (‘Tiny Pretty Things‘), Lifetime’s ‘A House on Fire’ is adapted from Ann Rule’s New York Times bestselling book ‘Bitter Harvest.’ This movie follows the story of a brilliant doctor and mother, Debora Green, who appeared to live an idyllic life with her husband and children in an affluent neighborhood. But behind closed doors, Debora’s experiences were much different. So now, with this movie consisting of some genuinely harrowing concepts, you must be wondering how much of it is real, right? Well, we’ve got you covered!

Is A House on Fire Based on a True Story?

Yes, ‘A House on Fire’ is based on a true story. It chronicles the real-life tale of Prairie Village, Kansas, physician Debora J. Green, whose mental health issues, dependency on pills and alcohol, and inner agony resulted in the loss of her house and the lives of two of her children. While getting ready to start her journey as a doctor, Debora had met Michael Farrar, also a medical student, and the two fell in love. After tying the knot on May 26, 1979, the Farrar’s welcomed three children into their lives; Timothy, Kate, and Kelly. But their relationship, involving several fights and even a separation, was far from idyllic.

Image Credit: Forensic Files

Although Debora was a good physician, her professionalism and bedside manners were far from the mark. She apparently lacked social skills and had a habit of losing her temper at even the slightest of inconveniences, which only became worse when she began using various sedatives and drugs in the name of self-medication. Debora’s emotional stability visibly deteriorated in the summer of 1995, and that’s when she started drinking heavily. During this time, Michael repeatedly fell ill, but no one could find the source of his ailment despite numerous hospitalizations. Yet, that all changed on October 24, 1995.

On that fateful day, the Farrar family home in Kansas, occupied by Debora and the couple’s three children, caught on fire. And while the doctor and her middle child, Kate, 10, were able to escape without harm, 13-year-old Timothy and 6-year-old Kelly Farrar were not that lucky. Thanks to the local police department’s thorough investigations, though, it soon came to light that the house was set ablaze on purpose, with the flames having been ignited in Debora’s bedroom. Then, it was revealed that Michael’s intractable illness was from his wife serving him ricin-spiked poisoned food. Debora was arrested on November 22, 1995.

Charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder, and one count of aggravated arson, Debora Green was held on a $3 million bail. However, she maintained her innocence throughout the pre-trial proceedings. Ultimately, though, the disgraced emergency physician pleaded no contest to all charges and was given two concurrent forty-year prison sentences. Although her motives have never been made clear, some speculate that her mental health issues spiraled once Michael asked her for a divorce in July 1995, leading to this once-unimaginable chaos.

The couple’s relationship played a pivotal role in all this, especially as most of their arguments centered around Debora’s envy of Michael’s career and her accusations of him having affairs. The latter was not true until it eventually was, also in 1995. We should also mention that while Michael had initially declined to move out of their family home despite the couple’s impending divorce, he did leave in early autumn, claiming concerns about his safety. He had a feeling that his wife’s instability would soon extend to others as well, and that it would not be good. Lifetime’s ‘A House on Fire’ profiles all this, and every bit of it is real.

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