Murder, She Wrote (1984–1996)
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Family Secrets 

One of Jessica's former students is murdered when he returns to Cabot Cove to write a book exposing new information on a 30-year-old town scandal.


Walter Grauman


Peter S. Fischer (created by), Richard Levinson (created by) | 2 more credits »

On Disc

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Angela Lansbury ... Jessica Fletcher
Charley Lang ... Arnold Lummis
Ron Masak ... Sheriff Mort Metzger (as Ron Másak)
Brian McNamara ... Randall Sloan
David Newsom ... Neal Latimer
Debra Stipe ... Sally Bates
Phyllis Thaxter ... Emily Weymouth
Richard Venture Richard Venture ... George Latimer
Caroline Williams ... Janet Weymouth
William Windom ... Dr. Seth Hazlitt
Louis Herthum ... Deputy Andy Broom
Beth Taylor Hart Beth Taylor Hart ... Margaret Babbington
Jeff Bankert Jeff Bankert ... Owen Cooper
Paul Carr ... Businessman (as Paul W. Carr)
Richard Brestoff ... William Bailey


Jessica's former student Randy Sloan is back in Cabot Cove to research a 30-year-old murder that someone wants to stay buried. Pretty waitress Sally Bates interests both Randy and rich boy Neal Latimer. But is the secret Randy has discovered worth killing to keep? Written by mama.sylvia

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Mystery


TV-PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

27 September 1992 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


When Jessica bumps into Randy in the library she is wearing a teapot pin, could it be Mrs Potts. See more »


Funny that Jessica could rattle off the full names of all four protagonists of an (albeit local but) 30-years-old murder case (the victim's, his fiancee's AND their two cousins'). Her conversation the night before with a budding writer now dredging up the story had barely touched on any specifics. See more »


[first lines]
Arnold Lummis: [quietly in library] Mrs. Fletcher... Mrs. Fletcher...
Jessica Fletcher: Oh, I'm sorry, Arnold. I guess it's getting to be that time.
Arnold Lummis: I'm afraid so. Yeah. Still looking for that perfect poison?
Jessica Fletcher: Oh, yes. I know it's here somewhere. Deadly, exotic. Virtually impossible to detect.
Arnold Lummis: Until the murderer gets caught on the last page.
See more »

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User Reviews

Like Teacher, Unlike Student
18 September 2009 | by WeatherVioletSee all my reviews

This episode marks the most recent performance to date of Phyllis Thaxter, who began her film and television acting career in 1944, as well as the only acting appearance by Blair Sorby.

As Cabot Cove Librarian Arnold Lummis (Charley Lang) prepares to close for the evening, he approaches Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury), who researches the effects of various poisons to incorporate into a manuscript plot. Upon his exiting, Arnold asks her to turn out the lights before she locks the door behind her, when Randall Sloan (Brian McNamara) emerges from the shadows.

Jessica is pleased to see that Randall Sloan, a former ninth grade pupil, has returned from Portland, Maine, where he has received accolades as an investigative newspaper reporter, and now plans to turn Cabot Cove upside down, by resurrecting the account of a 30-year-old murder with newfound information to explain its motive.

Waitress Sally Bates (Debra Sandlund Stipe) rejects Randall's request to be interviewed even though he doesn't explain his reason for wishing to speak with her. For one thing, she says that she's too busy working two jobs, while attending evening classes, to earn her big break. And, for another reason, she perceives that her suitor, Neal Latimer (David Newsom), would become immensely jealous if she were to see Brian. Sally, Neal, Randall and Janet Weymouth (Caroline Williams) had attended school together, but Janet says that she is a year younger than they.

After Neil's father, George Latimer (Richard Venture) discusses plans for business expansion with associates, including Businessman (Paul Carr), George asks Neil why he didn't add input into the discussion, then perceiving that his mind is on Sally, whom George considers "beneath" Neal's social class, adding that Janet Weymouth would make a more suitable fiancée, to Neal's disapproval because of her iciness.

While Janet conducts a fund drive and benefit luncheon to finance Cabot Cove Community Center, her reclusive wealthy mother, Emily Weymouth (Phyllis Thaxter), expresses resentment toward Randall's plan to expose the memory of her cousin and friend Margaret Babbington, who had been convicted in the murder of her former fiancé, Owen Cooper, all of those years ago.

Emily's displeasure at Randall's rejecting a huge financial payoff to cease his investigation adds the Weymouths to the list of those determined for Randall to abandon his research. While George and Neal give Randal ultimatums, Sally pleads with Randall to leave her alone, and Arnold expresses disappointment in Randall's refusing to allow Arnold to co-author the project, as they had often collaborated in the past.

But Jessica remains the only ally in Randall's corner, she encouraging him to avoid allowing the truth to slip away from a story even though she didn't investigate the case of "Mad Maggie" herself, under the notion that justice had been served, while Randall continues to maintain a secret new angle, which he refuses to disclose before he completes his research.

The next morning, when a body is found in Cabot Cove Library, Doctor Seth Hazlitt (William Windom), Sheriff Mort Metzger (Ron Masak) and Deputy Andy Broom (Louis Herthum) arrive to investigate, with a string of suspects to be questioned.

To cut to the chase, Jessica telephones sanitarium receptionist William Bailey (Richard Brestoff), who willingly and immediately provides Jessica the confidential information which she requests.

A silent flashback sequence features Young George Latimer (Blair Sorby), Margaret Babbington (Beth Taylor Hart) and Owen Cooper (Jeff Bankert) to shed light upon a few "Family Secrets."

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