Is Black Bird Based on the True Story of Jimmy Keene? Is it Based on a Book?

Developed by Dennis Lehane, Apple TV+’s crime series ‘Black Bird’ revolves around James “Jimmy” Keene, a Chicago-based drug dealer who gets arrested by the DEA and FBI for his narcotics dealings and sentenced to ten years in prison for the charges. Still, the FBI and attorney Edmund Beaumont offer him an opportunity to walk free from prison by eliciting a confession from a suspected serial killer named Larry DeWayne Hall, who is imprisoned in Springfield. Since the realistic portrayal of Jimmy and Larry’s story resembles several true-crime shows, the viewers may want to know whether the 2022 crime drama falls into the same category. Well, let us share everything you need to know!

Is Black Bird a True Story?

Yes, ‘Black Bird’ is based on a true story. The show is an adaptation of ‘In with the Devil: A Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer, and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption,’ written by James “Jimmy” Keene with Hillel Levin. The book details the true story of Jimmy’s undercover mission to elicit Larry DeWayne Hall’s confession to the alleged murder of Tricia Reitler, along with the location of her supposed dead body. Jimmy Keene was arrested in 1996 and sentenced to a 10-year prison term for drug trafficking charges. While he was in prison, as per the source text of the show, he was approached by federal prosecutor Lawrence Beaumont, who offered him a deal to get out of prison.

Beaumont sent Jimmy to the maximum-security penitentiary and psychiatric hospital in Springfield, Missouri, so that he can befriend Larry and elicit the confession. According to the source text, the attorney believed that Larry was responsible for more than twenty murders and he informed Jimmy that he would ask the judge to give him an early release if he manages to elicit confessions and non-publicized details concerning the alleged crimes Larry committed.

Larry, at the time, was imprisoned for abducting and raping Jessica Roach. Even though he reportedly confessed to strangling her with a belt, a cause of death could not be determined to charge him with murder. During the murder investigation of Jessica, as per reports, Larry confessed to raping and strangling a girl near the campus of Indiana Wesleyan University and identified Tricia Reitler as the victim to Gary Miller, the chief investigator of Jessica’s case. However, the suspected murderer recanted the confession the next day. When Beaumont met Jimmy concerning the deal, Larry was awaiting the court to consider his appeal and overturn his conviction.

James “Jimmy” Keene//Image Credit: Dateline NBC/NBC

Fearing Larry would walk free, Beaumont had to depend upon Jimmy. After getting into the prison, Jimmy gained Larry’s trust and the two of them started to have regular conversations. As per the source text, Jimmy eventually managed to bring up Tricia Reitler during one such conversation, only for Hall to reportedly confess that she got into his van with him. “When I tried to kiss her [Tricia], she started like going crazy on me, and hitting me, and punching me, and wanting to get out of the van,” Larry told Jimmy, as per ‘In with the Devil.’

“I started choking her [Tricia] to make her stop. And honestly, James, that’s the last thing I remember. It was like I blacked out again. When I woke up, I was lying next to her, and her clothes were all off. Then I looked at her and I knew that she was dead. I started feeling for a pulse but it wasn’t there,” Larry added to Jimmy. “He buried her that night, in a place that was way out in the country,” Jimmy said about Larry apparently burying Tricia’s body, as per the source text. Still, Jimmy couldn’t elicit the exact location of Tricia’s supposed dead body from Larry.

Larry DeWayne Hall

After this particular conversation, Jimmy found Larry with a map of Illinois and Indiana with numerous red dots scattered inside the borders. Jimmy also noticed wooden falcons on the map. When enquired about the same, as per the source text, Larry told him that the falcons “watch over the dead,” possibly indicating that the red spots are the locations of the dead bodies of the girls Larry allegedly killed. However, before Jimmy could find the exact locations, he blew his cover to Larry and ended up in solitary confinement. By the time he got released from solitary confinement, the map was gone.

Even though Jimmy didn’t find the exact location of Tricia Reitler’s body, Beaumont helped him to get released from prison. As per ‘In with the Devil,’ Jimmy became a free man in 1999. Even after 29 years, Tricia’s case remains a disappearance since her dead body wasn’t found. As of yet, there isn’t any physical evidence to connect Larry to Tricia’s disappearance as well.

Read More: Where is Larry Hall Now?