Madison Hamburg was on a lunch break throughout movie college on March 3, 2010, when the decision got here.
“I was at Chik-fil-A with a bunch of friends, and my phone was broken that day. One of my best friends reached out to another friend, who was with me, to say my sister really needed to talk to me.” Hamburg’s youthful sibling, Ali, had despatched phrase that Madison shouldn’t name again till he was sitting down. “I thought she had gotten in trouble or something,” he advised The Put up. “And when I called, she said, ‘Mom’s dead.’ She was crying. She said, ‘Someone killed her.’ ”
Hamburg, now 29 and residing in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, thought it was a mistake, or a nasty joke. “My initial response, which I know now is a part of grief, was, ‘That can’t be right. She’s not dead. Put someone else on the phone. This isn’t funny.’ ”
However it wasn’t a joke. Barbara Seaside Hamburg, Madison’s 48-year-old mom, had been bludgeoned and stabbed to loss of life, her physique hidden below a pile of lawn-furniture cushions outdoors their Connecticut house.
It was a grisly crime that shocked the seaside city of Madison, CT. However it had was a chilly case by 2013, when Madison (whose title is a coincidence; he was born in Atlanta) determined to make a documentary for a movie college undertaking. That 130 hours of preliminary footage turned the forthcoming “Murder on Middle Beach,” a four-part HBO collection 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 start out turned out to be his father, Jeffrey Hamburg.
“I started to hear these crazy things about my dad,” mentioned Madison. “I mean, I grew up extremely sheltered. My dad was unrealistically, inexplicably wealthy. He was the CEO of an international energy company, but we didn’t really know what he did. He lived in Prague for years. And Dubai. I always thought maybe he was in the CIA, or something. But I didn’t know at all that my mom was worried about what he did. And then my parents were divorced, and my mother had no money, and I was living with her, and there’s all these problems.”
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. In keeping with a report on the time within the Hartford Courant, “court records show that Jeffrey Hamburg had been in a precarious financial condition related to a bankruptcy filing in June 2009. At one such proceeding, his ex-wife accused him of raiding his children’s bank 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 so much to learn about my mom’s life, and our community, that I just didn’t know,” mentioned Madison. “It was really overwhelming.”
He discovered the extent of his mom’s alcoholism, and of the thread of dependancy that runs via his complete household. It squared together with his personal previous as a troubled teenager. “I was acting out a lot. I’ve gone to rehab twice,” he mentioned. “My whole family is in recovery. My grandfather [Sandy Beach] is famous in AA, if you can be famous in an anonymous program. He spoke at national conventions. It was kind of a rite of passage for my family.”
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, wherein new recruits have been required to deliver a hefty monetary “gift” 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 items. 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 throughout the recession of 2008, it was described by its important proponents — who included Madison’s great-aunt Jill Platt — as a manner for struggling girls to tug themselves out of economic peril. Barbara Hamburg, her sister Conway Seaside, and Platt have been all concerned in recruiting girls within the space, and Platt ultimately went to jail for wire fraud, submitting false tax returns and conspiring to defraud the Inside 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 collection’ most colourful characters, comes into focus in Madison’s investigation. A blunt-spoken girl who has struggled with drug abuse and severe sickness, she’s proven to have causes to be thought-about a suspect — The Put up gained’t spoil why — and likewise factors the finger at one other member of the family’s doable involvement.
One of the vital grueling however crucial components of the method, mentioned Madison, was asking powerful questions of his surviving household. Questions that embrace querying his personal sister and father: “Did you kill my mother?”
The method is troublesome to observe, and was a part of what so impressed the workforce who opted to tackle the undertaking, mentioned govt producer Neda Armian. “What makes this series so magnetic is the deep, unwavering personal nature of it,” she mentioned. “It’s a journey that you would usually take privately. The courage to do it publicly is something to behold.” A 17-year producing companion of the late director Jonathan Demme, she mentioned Madison’s expertise as an introspective fledgling filmmaker would have impressed the Oscar-winning director. “Jonathan would have loved this series. He was such a champion of storytelling that touches on complicated family dynamics,” she mentioned.
Madison would be the first to confess he didn’t all the time maintain it collectively, although. “We have hours on the cutting room floor of me just losing it,” he mentioned. “When I set out, I didn’t know what I was getting into. It was just a project for documentary class. But one of my goals became to exonerate my family members. Because there’s this lingering distrust. And if I don’t ask certain questions in the documentary, then those questions are left unasked.”
Not least due to the incompetence of the native police drive, whose conversations Madison secretly recorded throughout their conferences.
“Not to slander them, but Connecticut is one of the worst states for transparency with law enforcement,” he mentioned. “The crime lab there was one of the worst in the country in 2010. They had something like 4,000 backlogged cases. In 2011 they lost their accreditation.”
By 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 largely muted; a neighborhood information channel was planning to publish the audio, he mentioned, and he wished to listen to it earlier than it was made public. “They wanted a comment from me, and my comment was, ‘That’s exploitative of my family’s trauma. I don’t see what benefit it brings, other than selling clicks.”
However for Madison, listening to his sister and aunt’s anguish that day was part of the grieving course of. “I didn’t want to dramatize it, but I think there was some sense of finality to listening to them realize she died.”
Madison Hamburg’s investigation additionally pulls again, in a bigger manner, 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 aspect of this Stepford Wives-esque shoreline community, where the more you reinforce that everything is okay, the darker what you’re hiding,” mentioned Madison. “That’s the duality of this idyllic New England neighborhood, these things that nobody wants to talk about. I’m not saying it caused my mother’s murder, but I think if people were more honest and open, and not putting on that facade, maybe we would know more. Maybe I wouldn’t be having to do this.”
Madison has arrange a tip line, BarbaraHamburgTips.com, within the hopes that viewers will come ahead with extra info.
“I’m hopeful that maybe Madison’s documentary will jog somebody’s memory about something they saw that day, something they heard or something that someone else told them,” Madison Police Division Capt. Joseph Race advised the ShoreLine Instances. “Obviously, it’s HBO, it’s going to be national. It could be something that someone told someone in Georgia that all of a sudden breaks this thing wide open.”