After working into the wee hours the night before, Sgt. Johann Schmitz of the Coeur d’Alene Police Department spent the better part of a recent morning walking through a crime scene at the front of Altar Church with Po Kutchins, executive producer of a real-crime documentary being filmed by the Discovery Networks through Anomaly Entertainment.
This was where Kyle A. Odom shot Pastor Tim Remington on March 6, 2016. Schmitz had been a property crimes detective at the time, and when the call about the shooting came in around 2 p.m., all detectives were activated to respond.
As Schmitz gestured to various places on the pavement, Detective Steve Harris watched from afar, careful to talk low and stay out of the scope of the camera. Though he had been Schmitz’s partner at the time of the shooting, Harris had been away that day. He worked on the case the next day, processing Remington’s car and clothes. He also headed security for Altar outreach pastor John Padula and his family, as they feared he might be a target. Harris also helped track down copies of Odom’s manifesto, a text that documented Odom’s belief that Martians were destroying his life.
“It’s an intriguing case when you look at it,” Harris said. He said he was looking forward to the documentary, which should air in 2019.
When making a documentary, bizarre details don’t hurt.
Aside from Odom’s document, which First District Judge Lansing Haynes described at Odom’s sentencing as “… like a science fiction novel, as if the author was a completely sane man living in … an alien possession of human beings,” there is also Remington’s improbable survival after being shot six times, with one bullet penetrating his skull.
But these details alone would not have brought Kutchins and her crew to Coeur d’Alene last week.
“This story can not only be this incredible story of the miraculous recovery of a person, and the great work of the police department, and the interesting twists and turns of a case that’s so strange and different, but also the human story of each of these people,” Kutchins said. “And then hope, when people decide to have empathy and give love for a person who’s done something terrible.”
A little more than a year ago, Remington was present in court when Odom was sentenced. On that day, he offered Odom’s family good wishes. While Haynes mulled his ruling, Remington led the courtroom in prayer. He offered Odom forgiveness. This was the type of story that Kutchins was after.
“In this particular case, this crime has many victims,” Kutchins said. “Not just the pastor and his family and his parishioners, but also Kyle Odom’s family, who are a wonderful, upstanding, loving family, and they are devastated. Everyone thinks that it happens to other people, it doesn’t happen to them, but ‘For the grace of God, go I’ is so appropriate here.”
Kutchins acknowledged that participating in the documentary has not been easy on the Odom family, but they saw a necessity in it.
“It’s a very painful thing, but they want to get help for their son and for people like him,” Kutchins said. “So they’re willing to open up the most painful thing that they are living with – the burden they are living with every day – to try to help others and help their son, and that’s beautiful.”
Kutchins also hopes that telling stories like this help to destigmatize mental health issues.
“For all of his life up until that moment, he had been a good human and a good citizen,” she said. “There were demons and mental illness that was clearly at play.”
One of the unique aspects of this case, for Kutchins, is that the victim survived. Because of this, there was an opportunity for forgiveness. Padula also sees power in telling a story of forgiveness.
“We have seen a lot of people get touched by God through all of this,” Padula said. “A lot of people have seen the miracle of it, they’ve seen the forgiveness of it, and they’ve seen Jesus in the midst of all of it.”
The story is about forgiveness and empathy, but in telling a story, Kutchins understands that details always matter. During the filming, Kutchins rushed over to producer Shareen Anderson and told her to write down that at the crime scene, there was a Bible, eyeglasses and a piece of Remington’s jacket.
Padula, who felt awkward around the cameras, said he ended up recounting some details himself. For example, part of what set everything in motion was that Padula had a group text he used to send out Scripture verses. When Odom bought the burner phone, he started receiving these messages because Odom was assigned an old number that was part of the group text.
Despite what he perceived as his own awkwardness, Padula enjoyed the process, and said that all of the people from Discovery Networks have been amazing and compassionate. He believes they will tell it accurately, and says God will receive the glory. Still, recalling his experience was emotional.
“Going through all of this again, talking about some of the details literally last night it brought me to a place of tears again, the emotion of it, it brought up some old feelings,” Padula said.
When Padula first found out, he called one of the detectives on the case, and the detective prayed with him.
“It drew me close to the Lord,” Padula said. “I told him I am so angry right now, but I know that’s not the right thing to do. That’s the old me, angry and mad all the time, no joy, no peace, and then Christ came into my life and I’m free of all that.”
Padula, a former addict, said he was saved through Remington’s ministry and claimed to be born again on Dec. 5, 2008. Remington was participating in the documentary, but not part of the filming on Friday. Padula said that spiritually, mentally and emotionally, Remington is doing great, though he still has issues with a hand and his stomach occasionally gives him problems.
“His heart is just to see Kyle come to salvation,” Padula said.
While Kutchins and Schmitz went through the scene again, Anderson explained that she and Kutchins have known each other since childhood in California. They often did projects together, including producing the A&E documentary “The Murder of Laci Peterson.”
“It’s not just about the crime, but how the story was told,” Anderson said of the Peterson documentary. “What you think you know is not always the truth, but it has an effect on how cases are adjudicated.”
Anderson also echoed Kutchins’ interest in the human story behind crimes. “No matter what side of the story you’re on, it’s about empathy and compassion,” she said.
Both Kutchins and Anderson reside in New York. Kutchins has family – an aunt and cousins – in Coeur d’Alene, but had never visited. Anderson has fond summer memories on the lake; she attended WSU for undergrad. Both were charmed by the city, and felt that much like they were embraced by the subjects of their documentary, they had been embraced by the community at large.
“People here really love Coeur d’Alene,” Kutchins said. “I get little groans about it growing a little too fast, too large, but I think that’s because they love it so much, and it’s precious to them. Those were the only groans that we heard, were the ‘When we moved here, there was only one stoplight! It’s getting big.’ But they love their city, and the nature here is just exquisite.”