‘Homicide on Center Seaside’ director uncovers his household’s darkish legacies
Madison Hamburg was on a lunch break throughout movie faculty on March 3, 2010, when the decision got here.
“I used to be at Chik-fil-A with a bunch of associates, and my cellphone was damaged that day. Certainly one of my greatest associates reached out to a different buddy, who was with me, to say my sister actually wanted to speak to me.” Hamburg’s youthful sibling, Ali, had despatched phrase that Madison shouldn’t name again till he was sitting down. “I assumed she had gotten in hassle or one thing,” he advised The Put up. “And once I referred to as, she mentioned, ‘Mother’s lifeless.’ She was crying. She mentioned, ‘Somebody killed her.’ ”
Hamburg, now 29 and residing in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, thought it was a mistake, or a foul joke. “My preliminary response, which I do know now is part of grief, was, ‘That may’t be proper. She’s not lifeless. Put another person on the cellphone. This isn’t humorous.’ ”
However it wasn’t a joke. Barbara Seaside Hamburg, Madison’s 48-year-old mom, had been bludgeoned and stabbed to dying, her physique hidden below a pile of lawn-furniture cushions outdoors their Connecticut dwelling.
It was a grisly crime that shocked the seaside city of Madison, CT. However it had changed into a chilly case by 2013, when Madison (whose identify is a coincidence; he was born in Atlanta) determined to make a documentary for a movie faculty undertaking. That 130 hours of preliminary footage turned the forthcoming “Homicide on Center Seaside,” a four-part HBO sequence directed by Hamburg as he makes an attempt to do what the Madison police drive couldn’t: discover out who brutally killed his mom, and why.
He didn’t must look far for suspects, as he uncovered a trove of secrets and techniques, resentments and darkish legacies in his circle of relatives. The logical place to begin turned out to be his father, Jeffrey Hamburg.
“I began to listen to these loopy issues about my dad,” mentioned Madison. “I imply, I grew up extraordinarily sheltered. My dad was unrealistically, inexplicably rich. He was the CEO of a world power firm, however we didn’t actually know what he did. He lived in Prague for years. And Dubai. I at all times thought possibly he was within the CIA, or one thing. However I didn’t know in any respect that my mother was anxious about what he did. After which my dad and mom have been divorced, and my mom had no cash, and I used to be residing along with her, and there’s all these issues.”
On the time Barbara was murdered, she was due in courtroom for proceedings associated to the divorce; Jeffrey had been ordered to pay a lump sum to his spouse or be held in contempt. Based on a report on the time within the Hartford Courant, “courtroom data present that Jeffrey Hamburg had been in a precarious monetary situation associated to a chapter submitting in June 2009. At one such continuing, his ex-wife accused him of raiding his youngsters’s financial institution accounts.”
An preliminary police investigation concluded DNA collected from the scene didn’t match Madison’s father, and Barbara Hamburg’s physique was cremated shortly thereafter.
However Jeffrey Hamburg, and his mysterious funds, have been simply the tip of the iceberg.
“There was a lot to study my mother’s life, and our neighborhood, that I simply didn’t know,” mentioned Madison. “It was actually overwhelming.”
He realized the extent of his mom’s alcoholism, and of the thread of dependancy that runs by way of his whole household. It squared together with his personal previous as a troubled teenager. “I used to be performing out so much. I’ve gone to rehab twice,” he mentioned. “My complete household is in restoration. My grandfather [Sandy Beach] is known in AA, should you could be well-known in an nameless program. He spoke at nationwide conventions. It was type of a ceremony of passage for my household.”
One other shadow over the household was a now-defunct group referred to as the Gifting Desk, a multilevel advertising scheme which had been billed as a self-help group. It consisted of a periodic women-only gathering, during which new recruits have been required to convey a hefty monetary “present” of $5,000 in money. Modeled after the programs in a cocktail party, the cash was an “appetizer,” whereas members who’d been within the group longer moved as much as the “dessert” course, the place they’d reap as a lot as $40,000 in presents. As per the pyramid construction, the concept was then for girls to interrupt off and begin new teams, starting the cycle once more.
As a result of the Gifting Desk scheme started in the course of the recession of 2008, it was described by its important proponents — who included Madison’s great-aunt Jill Platt — as a approach for struggling ladies to tug themselves out of economic peril. Barbara Hamburg, her sister Conway Seaside, and Platt have been all concerned in recruiting ladies within the space, and Platt finally went to jail for wire fraud, submitting false tax returns and conspiring to defraud the Inner Income Service.
On the time Barbara was murdered, she had been on the cusp of receiving a $40,000 bounty, main some to query if she’d been murdered by somebody disgruntled with the system.
In the meantime, Barbara’s older sister Conway, one of many sequence’ most colourful characters, comes into focus in Madison’s investigation. A blunt-spoken girl who has struggled with drug abuse and critical sickness, she’s proven to have causes to be thought of a suspect — The Put up received’t spoil why — and likewise factors the finger at one other member of the family’s doable involvement.
One of the vital grueling however obligatory elements of the method, mentioned Madison, was asking robust questions of his surviving household. Questions that embrace querying his personal sister and father: “Did you kill my mom?”
The method is troublesome to look at, and was a part of what so impressed the workforce who opted to tackle the undertaking, mentioned government producer Neda Armian. “What makes this sequence so magnetic is the deep, unwavering private nature of it,” she mentioned. “It’s a journey that you’d often take privately. The braveness to do it publicly is one thing to behold.” A 17-year producing accomplice of the late director Jonathan Demme, she mentioned Madison’s abilities as an introspective fledgling filmmaker would have impressed the Oscar-winning director. “Jonathan would have cherished this sequence. He was such a champion of storytelling that touches on sophisticated household dynamics,” she mentioned.
Madison would be the first to confess he didn’t at all times maintain it collectively, although. “Now we have hours on the chopping room ground of me simply dropping it,” he mentioned. “After I set out, I didn’t know what I used to be stepping into. It was only a undertaking for documentary class. However one among my objectives turned to exonerate my members of the family. As a result of there’s this lingering mistrust. And if I don’t ask sure questions within the documentary, then these questions are left unasked.”
Not least due to the incompetence of the native police drive, whose conversations Madison secretly recorded throughout their conferences.
“To not slander them, however Connecticut is likely one of the worst states for transparency with legislation enforcement,” he mentioned. “The crime lab there was one of many worst within the nation in 2010. That they had one thing like 4,000 backlogged circumstances. In 2011 they misplaced their accreditation.”
By means of Freedom of Data Act requests, Madison obtains key paperwork associated to his mom’s homicide, regardless of the stalling of the police division, which insists that it’s been transferring ahead on the case. In one of many episodes, he will get the 911 recording of the decision from his sister and aunt. We watch as he listens, with the audio principally muted; a neighborhood information channel was planning to submit the audio, he mentioned, and he needed to listen to it earlier than it was made public. “They needed a remark from me, and my remark was, ‘That’s exploitative of my household’s trauma. I don’t see what profit it brings, apart from promoting clicks.”
However for Madison, listening to his sister and aunt’s anguish that day was part of the grieving course of. “I didn’t wish to dramatize it, however I feel there was some sense of finality to listening to them understand she died.”
Madison Hamburg’s investigation additionally pulls again, in a bigger approach, to look at the underbelly of his city’s police drive — which has been implicated in unusual corruption schemes, together with lobster-stealing — and of the sophisticated layers of each household, even those who appear picture-perfect, because the Hamburgs as soon as did.
“There’s this facet of this Stepford Wives-esque shoreline neighborhood, the place the extra you reinforce that the whole lot is okay, the darker what you’re hiding,” mentioned Madison. “That’s the duality of this idyllic New England neighborhood, this stuff that no one needs to speak about. I’m not saying it induced my mom’s homicide, however I feel if folks have been extra trustworthy and open, and never placing on that facade, possibly we might know extra. Perhaps I wouldn’t be having to do that.”
Madison has arrange a tip line, BarbaraHamburgTips.com, within the hopes that viewers will come ahead with extra info.
“I’m hopeful that possibly Madison’s documentary will jog anyone’s reminiscence about one thing they noticed that day, one thing they heard or one thing that another person advised them,” Madison Police Division Capt. Joseph Race advised the ShoreLine Occasions. “Clearly, it’s HBO, it’s going to be nationwide. It may very well be one thing that somebody advised somebody in Georgia that swiftly breaks this factor broad open.”
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