TNT Reality Show 'Cold Justice' Gets Murder Confession

Issue 33 REP Cold Justice - H 2013
John Nowak/TNT

Issue 33 REP Cold Justice - H 2013

A Texas man admitted his role in a 12-year-old killing within days of the Dick Wolf series' Sept. 3 premiere.

This story first appeared in the Sept. 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Who says reality contributes nothing to society?

TNT's Cold Justice prompted a Texas man to confess to a 12-year-old murder within days of the series' Sept. 3 premiere. Ronnie Joe Hendrick, 41, pleaded guilty to the 2001 gunshot murder of girlfriend Pamela Shelly, a crime ruled a probable suicide until it was dug up by Cold Justice star Kelly Siegler.

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The former Texas-based prosecutor and her ex-Las Vegas police detective co-star Yolanda McClary found evidence implicating Hendrick while shooting the pilot in fall 2012. Attention surrounding the show's premiere prompted a mistrial, but Hendrick changed his plea Sept. 10 and received a 22-year prison sentence.

"This was definitely a unique situation," says executive producer Jane Lipsitz, who produces Cold Justice with Magical Elves partner Dan Cutforth as well as Dick Wolf. "Because so much time had passed between filming the pilot and going to trial, it was able to coincide with the airing."

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Premiering to 2.9 million viewers, Cold Justice scored one of cable's top 10 unscripted launches of 2013 and bucked the trend of such recent TNT reality misfires as 72 Hours, The Hero and The Great Escape. The network has not yet ordered a renewal, but producers already are scouting cases for a sophomore run. And Lipsitz says they've been flooded with inquiries from viewers close to unsolved crimes.