Is Candy based on a true story? Here's what inspired the Jessica Biel crime drama

Was Candy Montgomery a real person or not?

Jessica Biel as Candy Montgomery in Candy
(Image credit: PictureLux/The Hollywood Archive/Alamy/Future)

Some viewers have never heard of Candy Montgomery and her alleged crime, leading them to ask what the Disney+ series is based on.

Crime-drama series Candy is making waves for many reasons on Disney+ currently, the first being its all-star cast. Jessica Biel stars in the titular role of Candy, with multi-award winning Melanie Lynskey taking the role of her neighbour, Betty. Pablo Schrieber - of American Gods and Orange Is The New Black fame - has a main role, and Biel’s husband Justin Timberlake is also putting in an appearance. Another reason the show is grabbing attention is because viewers are unsure if it’s based on a true story, or something else entirely. Here we share everything we know about the source material for the series, and answer other burning questions like where Candy Montgomery is now (opens in new tab).

Another crime drama making the news is the Jeffrey Dahmer story on Netflix (opens in new tab). Viewers were left wondering how did Jeffrey Dahmer get caught (opens in new tab), after his killing spree went unchecked for decades. The series didn’t address what happened after he was apprehended, also leading to questions around how did Jeffrey Dahmer die (opens in new tab), and how old he was when it happened - the answer is as shocking as his life story. As someone who played a part in Dahmer being caught, we delve into the life of Tracy Edwards now (opens in new tab) - outlining his part in the capture and who exactly he is.

Is Candy based on a true story?

Yes, Candy tells the true story of Candy Montgomery who was accused of murdering her lover’s wife Betty Gore with an axe, on June 13, 1980. 

Candy Montgomery and her husband Pat were living in Collin County, Texas in 1977, with their son and daughter. According to The Independent (opens in new tab),  Pat Montgomery worked at technology company Texas Instruments, and Candy was a homemaker. According to reports at the time, Candy was bored in her role as housewife, and sought excitement in her life. Neighbours Betty and Allan Gore had met at college and married in 1970 - they’d had their first child - a daughter - just before moving to Collin County. 

Both families were very involved with the church, and first met properly in the summer of 1978, while playing church volleyball. Allan and Candy began a few weeks of flirtation, before admitting their attraction to each other. An affair began in December 1978. When Betty and Allan had their second daughter in July 1979, Allan called a halt to the affair, saying he wanted to work on his marriage to Betty. 

On June 13, 1980, Allan Gore was working away and became concerned when he couldn’t get hold of Betty. He called Candy, who reported she had seen Betty earlier that day and hadn’t noted any problem. Still concerned for his wife’s whereabouts, Allan enlisted another neighbour, Richard Parker, to visit his house and see whether Betty’s car was in the garage. Parker took friends Jerry McMahan and Lester Gayler with him. It was Gayler who discovered Betty’s body in the utility room, although he first noticed the “oceans” of blood before seeing her body. Betty had been struck by an axe 41 times.  

A bloody footprint found at the scene suggested someone of small stature - a child or a woman, had been present when Betty died. Candy told police Betty and Allan’s eldest daughter Alisa had stayed at her house overnight, and she had entered Betty’s house on the morning of her death to collect Alisa’s swimsuit ready for a swimming lesson. This she said, would account for her footprints being in the house. Allan admitted to detectives that he and Candy had been having an affair. She then became the main suspect in the homicide and was arrested June 27, 1980, and charged with Betty’s murder.

Hudson Hughes as Davey, Melanie Lynskey as Betty Gore, and Antonella Rose as Christina in Candy

(Image credit: Dom Slike/Alamy)

Was Candy Convicted?

No, Candy Montgomery was found not guilty of murdering Betty Gore, on October 30, 1980. She argued she had killed Betty in self-defence, and was acquitted. 

When Candy was initially arrested, it was noted while changing into prison clothes that she had multiple bruises to her body, and a cut to her toe. Her lawyers didn’t deny she had murdered Betty, instead arguing for self-defence. Her attorney called upon Dr Fred Fason, a psychiatrist who practiced hypnosis, to give opinion on the case. Fason said hypnosis sessions with Candy revealed childhood trauma and clear memories from the day Betty died. 

The trigger of Candy’s rage towards Betty was reported to be related to an altercation between the two women, where Betty told Candy to “shhhhh”. This allegedly resurfaced a traumatic childhood memory of Candy’s mother shushing her, triggered by being shushed by Betty. Candy was already angered by being shushed when collecting Alisa’s swimsuit from Betty, when Betty then confronted Candy about the affair with Allan as she’d managed to find out about it.

During the confrontation Candy alleged Betty attacked her with an axe which struck her toe. A struggle followed, with Candy managing to grab the axe and using it to end the fight. She pushed Betty away from her, then brought the blade down on the back of Betty’s head. Candy put her bruises and toe wound down to being attacked physically and with an axe by Betty, adding fuel to her self-defence argument. It took the jury 3 hours to find her not guilty of murder. 

Jessica Biel as Candy Montgomery in Candy

(Image credit: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy)

Did Betty Gore's baby survive?

Yes, Betty Gore’s daughter Bethany was a year old at the time of Betty’s death and despite being left unattended all day on the day she died, remained safe and well.

According to Bustle (opens in new tab), Lester Gayle who found Betty’s body, said “A little old baby raised its head up out of the crib, out of the baby bed”. He continued “It began to cry. It’d been there all, nearly all day, hadn't been fed or nothing.” Alisa was still with Candy’s family, having slept at her house the two nights prior to the attack, only Bethany remained with Betty on the day of the crime. 

Allan Gore later lost custody of both children, who went to live with Betty’s parents in Kansas. Neither Alisa or Bethany have made public comment on their mother’s murder being dramatised. 

Melanie Lynskey as Betty Gore and Jessica Biel as Candy Montgomery in Candy

(Image credit: Dom Slike/Alamy)

Candy: Rotten Tomatoes

On review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes (opens in new tab), Candy currently has a critic rating of 71%, and an audience score of 71%.

Jessica Scott from Film Cred (opens in new tab) said "Fans of true crime will likely enjoy Candy — the undeniably fascinating story coupled with a clever, if occasionally convoluted, narrative structure makes for compelling binge-watching. Based on the performances alone, it’s an easy series to recommend".

Brad Newsome from the Sydney Morning Herald (opens in new tab) added "Biel and Lynskey are both utterly compelling, and the faithful period detail of the production and wardrobe design give things a slightly elevated and unsettling feel".

However, Steve Murray from ArtsATL (opens in new tab) was less than impressed, saying "Candy doesn’t seem to know whether it’s a piercing drama or a condescending satire of small-town values. (It punches down, a lot.) It winds up in a dramatic no man’s land."

Janelle Ureta of Tell-Tale TV (opens in new tab) agreed, adding "Despite the stacked call sheet and knock-it-out-of-the-park performances, Candy fails to deliver the psychological thrill it should".

Related True Crime Features:

Video of the Week