13 user 1 critic

Nightmare in Columbia County (1991)

Not Rated | | Drama | TV Movie 10 December 1991
The recounting of a terrible crime that wracked a family and galvanized police in South Carolina in the 1980's.


Roger Young


John Bensink (as John Robert Bensink)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
William Devane ... Sheriff Jim Metts
Jeri Ryan ... Dawn Elizabeth Smith (as Jeri Lynn Ryan)
Michele Abrams ... Shari Smith
Nick Searcy ... Asst. Sheriff McCarty
Linda Pierce Linda Pierce ... Hilda Smith
J. Don Ferguson J. Don Ferguson ... Bob Smith
James Slade ... Larry Gene Bell (as Butch Slade)
Joyce Leigh Bowden Joyce Leigh Bowden ... Carol Metts (as Joyce Bowden)
Stephen Preusse Stephen Preusse ... SLED Officer
Joe Maggard ... Scanlon
Michael Flippo Michael Flippo ... Command Post Deputy
Chuck Kinlaw Chuck Kinlaw ... Principal
Mark Jeffrey Miller ... Man at Depot (as Mark Miller)
Alan Sader Alan Sader ... Prosecutor
Don Tilley Don Tilley ... Man at Door


The recounting of a terrible crime that wracked a family and galvanized police in South Carolina in the 1980's.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




Not Rated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

10 December 1991 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Fascino mortale See more »

Filming Locations:

Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

Company Credits

Production Co:

Landsburg Company See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


On April 27, 2015, ex- Sheriff James R. Metts was sentenced to 1 year plus 1 day in Federal Prison after he was convicted of accepting bribes to house illegal aliens who worked at a co-conspirator's business. See more »


Version of I, Witness: The Smith Sisters (2017) See more »

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User Reviews

based on a true story
10 July 2005 | by blanche-2See all my reviews

Sadly, this TV movie is based on a true story. The problem with some of these dramas ripped from the headlines is that, after you've seen and heard the real family, there's simply no comparison.

Thanks to some nice performances, however, this film does a pretty good job of telling the story of a beauty queen who disappears outside of her home and whose family is then tortured by the kidnapper even after the young woman's body is found.

The actual shocking details are depicted in the movie - for instance, the poor mother having to keep the killer on the phone, on the day of her daughter's funeral, as the killer asks her if she wants to know how her daughter died. As the real-life mother said in the documentary done on Court TV, "Did I want to talk to him? No. But what choice did I have?" The young woman writes a letter to her family (also depicted in this movie). She states that she is ready to die and requests a closed casket. Though I can't imagine anything more unbearable, in real life, the parents say it has helped provide them with the closure they needed to go on for their lives.

Though this film does a decent job, certainly, the focus is on the Jeri Ryan character, the victim's sister. After viewing the Court TV story, one walks away inspired by the courage of the entire family in the face of such torment, and is haunted by the photo of this beautiful, radiant young woman with her entire life ahead of her.

In 2006, "What Not to Wear" did makeovers on three past beauty pageant contestants when they brought them back to re-enter the competition. One of the former contestants was a rather perky and annoying blond from the south. I later learned she is the sister on which the Jeri Ryan character is based; her sister was the one killed. I went from thinking this smiling and somewhat cloying older women was a pain to thinking she's one of the most remarkable women I've ever seen.

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