October 6, 1989. Noel, Missouri. A town along the Oklahoma-Arkansas border. A bank employee came to the Noel State bank to discover that it had been robbed. Further investigation discovered that 51-year-old Bank president Dan Short had disappeared. Later, his body surfaced duct taped to a chair in the Grand Lake of the Cherokees in Oklahoma.
Eventually, investigators arrested Shannon Agofsky and his older brother Joseph based on forensic, and circumstantial evidence in 1992. This included Shannon Agofsky’s fingerprints being found on a piece of the duct tape and Joe Agofsky spending large amounts of money. Both would be convicted of armed robbery the same year and sentenced to life in prison. Joseph Agosky died in prison in 2013. Shannon Agofsky later received the death penalty for killing an inmate in 2001.
In the thirty years after the case, many crime shows covered the case, each with their own spin on the story. Depending on the focus of the show, the investigation, characterizations, and portrayals seemed to change.
Although this article contains names and pictures of real people, it examines their portrayals in crime shows rather than their actual lives. It also should be noted that this article is not to assess the real case or the potential guilt or innocence of anybody. The author does not represent or speak for anybody involved in the case. This article examines how different shows create portray of the same crime rather than what happened based on case files or news.
‘Unsolved Mysteries’ – Over the Edge (1990)
This episode of Unsolved Mysteries (1987-2002) with Robert Stack came out when the case had still not been officially solved. Therefore, everything in the show is a speculation based on witness testimony and evidence. As its primary goal is to generate leads, the show primarily uses recreations, but also includes some photos. Six years after the series went off the air, Spike TV re-edited much of the series and had Dennis Farina host the new versions of old stories. The Dan Short story become one of the stories that got re-aired. After the Farina series ended in 2010, FilmRise would buy both series and put them online starting in 2016.
As it is a show about unsolved mysteries, this show does not delve too deeply into the investigation or the investigators. Often one will see law enforcement officials doing their job and that is it.
Disclaimer on show
The show featuring the Short case begins with the following disclaimer:
“This program is about unsolved mysteries. Whenever possible, the actual family members and police officials have participated in recreating the events. What you are about to see is not a news broadcast.”
Later versions of the show and the remake of the series would later do away with this disclaimer.
This show segment lasts for ten minutes and focuses primarily on the crime scene. In Unsolved Mysteries, the primary question asked is if it was just a robbery or an execution. According to the program, the ineptitude of the robbers made it look like robbery was an execution.
Dan Short has a guest who leaves his house just before 11 AM. Dan goes inside and reads book. Between 11 AM and 1:30 PM, a Man comes and knocks on Dan’s door asking to use his telephone after his car broke down up the road. Dan does not see another Man hiding on the side of the house with a gun when he opens the door. The Two Men restrain him and take him to the bank.
2 AM. The bank. The perpetrators force Dan to turn the alarm off and unlock the front doors. One hoists himself up onto something to spray paint the camera and turning the camera around backwards. The perpetrators lead Dan into the vault and take only what cash they see. Short neglects to mention a hundred thousand dollars that he is aware of, leading investigators to believe that he was not a willing participant in the robbery. The robbers leave with Dan Short around 3 AM, shooting the camera out on their way out.
Shortly later, a local trucker driving south through town spots three vehicles (a red pickup followed by a blue pickup, and a brown van) on the outskirts of Noel. The red pickup looks like Dan Short’s pickup (which Dan drives, even though he is not wearing his glasses). The blue pickup turns off south and cuts off the truck driver half a mile away. The pickup driver looks back at him. He is a heavyset man with long hair and a beard.
At some point, the killers ditched Dan Short’s pickup and drove around in the brown van. Inside the van, they chain Dan to a kitchen chair with a cinderblock attached. Investigators speculate that Dan Short was unconscious because any type of struggle would have broken the chair up. Investigators speculate that Short was unconscious when thrown in the lake. At 6 AM, witnesses cited a dark van on the bridge, but did not get a license plate.
The original Unsolved Mysteries created an atmosphere based around dread and mystery. The opening bank scene almost plays like a horror movie or thriller. The old show would linger on shots that suggested horror and terror. It also has a theme song.
Unsolved Mysteries also uses more extras then the other versions. Early in the show, the audience sees the bank as a friendly populated place. Almost all of the clients in the bank are female except for the one client that Short talks to. A woman with her daughter walks by in the background. Of all the versions, this is probably the most populated version of the bank.
The remake added many editing tricks, a faster rhythm, and a fast-paced rock soundtrack. The new show also uses ramp editing (changing speed of footage in the editing process) to speed up some of the slower more atmospheric footage.
Narrator and Host
In its run, Unsolved Mysteries had two hosts, Robert Stack and Dennis Farina. Both served as narrators of the show too. The very theatrical Stack presents the case against the backdrop of a lake. A more easy-going Farina presents the story in a blue facility that looks like if NASA had a crime unit. Screens with crimes play in back of Farina. Stack’s version has a more immediate approach as the story had happened months before.
Unsolved Mysteries has more friends and relatives of Dan Short in it than the other versions. This includes Dan’s friend Don Duncan and brother Bob Short. Duncan serves as a character witness, while Bob Short says he would like to know why he his brother was killed over money.
Along with these folks, the segment also includes Ladell Farley, the FBI agent in charge of the case. Farley appears in every version of the story.
‘The FBI Files’ – Blood Brothers (1999)
The FBI Files revolves around the FBI’s investigation of crimes and how the investigators eventually caught the criminals through interrogation.
Disclaimer on show
The show begins with the following disclaimer:
“Some Scenes in this program have been reenacted.”
In The FBI Files, Joseph Agofsky cases out the bank and draws out blue prints. The brothers also have a third accomplice who cases out Dan Short’s house four days before the crimes and acts as a lookout for them. They also wear masks and gloves to not be identified.
The brothers and accomplice drive across the Missouri border to Dan short’s House in Arkansas. Wearing masks, the brothers and their accomplice knock on the Short’s door. Sleeping in his bed, Short awakens, knocking over the phone. He comes to the door without his glasses and opens the door to see who’s there. The three men force their way in and chase the scared Short around the house before catching him, but not before he knocks over the wastebasket. They threaten to kill him unless he turns over his keys to the bank. The brothers duct tape his mouth and hands before taking him to their white van with brown trim and stuff him in the front seat. Each criminal drives a vehicle (including Short’s red pickup).
The Agofskys and their accomplice take Short into the bank. No alarms sounded because Short neglected to set them. One of the Robbers creates a platform so he can get up and spray paint the camera. Another robber shoots it out. The have Short retrieve the keys to the safe and provide them with the combination. According to the narrator, “once inside, they grabbed all that was in reach and dashed away.” They dump the money in Short’s truck. Although Short complies, the Robbers pistol whip him, knocking him out.
Trucker Buddy Mills sees the three vehicles leaving town. The blue pickup follows Mills until it turns off behind him on a route into Arkansas.
Shannon and the accomplice take Short to Grand Lake, 22 miles away. They take a chair with a cinderblock taped to the back and place it on the ground behind them. The place Dan Short in it. They duct tape Short as he slowly becomes conscious. Shannon hastily takes off his gloves and pulls off his mask to reveal his face. Agofsky and his accomplice then apply the chain hoist to the chair before dumping Short in.
As a procedural, The FBI Files has the most detailed version of the investigation. It relies more on narration and visuals. The show features a handheld documentarian approach rather than the slicker recreations of Unsolved Mysteries. There’s a lot of handheld tracking shots in which characters walk through locations.
The show also features almost no archive footage or pictures. The interviewees are the only real people involved in the story. The only archival materials come in the form of pictures the audience sees at the end when the suspects are caught.
Narrator and Host
Actor Anthony Call narrates the show, while former head of the FBI’s New York office James Kallstrom hosts. Call had a long career stretching back decades, including appearing on the original Star Trek (1966-1969). Kallstrom’s onscreen appearance mainly have him walking through the crime scene and describing how the case was revealed to be deceptive.
Law Enforcement officials mostly serve as interviewees. The FBI Files also adds Farley’s law enforcement partner Ken Nolan and Mike Johnson, who would eventually help build a case against the Agofskys.
Along with law enforcement, The FBI Files adds a new source: Mark Ullman, bank vice president. According to Ullman, he actually met Joseph Agofsky as he cased out the bank. Agofsky asked Ullman about Dan Short. Ullman also brings up how Short forgot to set the alarm.
‘Forensic Files’ – Stick ‘em Up (2007)
Forensic Files focuses mostly on the forensic science of the situation. This show goes into more detail about the tape.
The show’s version of the crime is the barest bones version of it. The Agofskys simply yank Short out of the house after his guest leaves. The audience does not see the struggle, but the program does mention it seeming like Short left in a hurry earlier due to many details.
The brothers rob the bank, but do not take the money that Dan neglected to mention. After abandoning Dan’s truck, the brothers duct tape him to a chair they already attached the cinder block and chain hoist too. When they toss him in, one of the spindles on the chair breaks, causing a piece of tape to come loose. It floats to the shore, where a curious man named Rowdy Foreman finds it.
In Forensic Files, there is much less confusion about Dan’s guilt or innocence in robbing the bank. The law enforcement officers point to the mess in his house and the still intact 100 thousand dollars at the bank.
At a brisk 22-minute-long time, Forensic Files often glosses over various details. Whenever the show does not want to elaborate on who a person is, the show will call them a witness.
The show probably also has the heaviest use of archival photos and footage. In terms of recreations, the show tends to keep a pretty standard professional format until getting to the crime. The crime’s shots are closer and include more dutch angles.
Peter Thomas served as the narrator of Forensic Files until its eventual cancellation. He has a very distinctive voice. Thomas had appeared for years in the industry before becoming known for his voiceover work.
The show keeps many of the same interviewees, including Rowdy Foreman. Perhaps the most pertinent new face here is reporter Gerald E. Elkins. Elkins played Dan Short in television recreations such as Unsolved Mysteries to generate leads. The reenactment actors actually held Elkins over the bridge.
‘Swamp Murders’ – A Run for the Money (2013)
Swamp Murders focuses primarily on infamous murders that take place in swamps. This show plays up a southern backwoods ethos.
Disclaimer on Show
The show opens with this disclaimer:
“This program contains dramatizations of real events and violent content. Some names and timelines have been changed.
Viewer Discretion is advised.”
At around 2 AM, the Agofskys break into Short’s house, wake up the intoxicated Short, and kidnap him. Witnesses hear a pick-up truck drive away around 2:30 AM. Throughout the entire crime spree, they order Dan around and intimidate him.
Based on time of departure from Dan’s house, the Agofsky brothers arrive at the bank shortly before 3 AM. After Dan gets into the bank and turns out the alarm, they shoot out the surveillance cameras. Police suspect an unknown accomplice due to a smaller hand smudge on the wall. The brothers trash the vault when they get inside. They take 8,000 dollars in coins.
The Agofskys transport Dan presumably in a van across state lines to Oklahoma. Specifically, the Grand Lake of the Cherokees. On the cowskin bridge, they set the chair upright and bind Dan to it. The narrator also describes the chair as being weighed down by a “heavy concrete brick.” Short hands were bound in front with brown duct tape. At the last minute, the chain falls are taped around Dan Short for added weight. Law enforcement suspects that the brothers were in a hurry due to the haphazard nature of the taping. They then shove the still live Dan over the bridge.
According to investigators, Shannon later revealed to a jailhouse informant what happened. The informant said that Dan pleaded for his life, while Shannon laughed. The reenactment of the murder ends with Shannon laughing one last time before gesturing to his brother that they should leave.
In Swamp Murders, everybody has suspicions about almost every person they come in contact with. The investigators mostly visit people at their houses.
While it also contains minimal archival footage, Swamp Murders uses recreations more extensively than any of the other shows. Dialogue consists mostly of exposition and setting up the stakes of the story. The show often films conversations with characters either standing or sitting at tables. There is a lot of shot-reverse-shot. Everything is professionally made.
The primary exception of this is polygraph test scenes between various characters, which exist with more pans and rack focuses. This show also has the most extensive use of the polygraph test.
In Swamp Murders, almost none of the characters look like the real-life people in the story. The one notable exception to this is the Agofsky brothers. They also are the only ones who the audience sees in archive footage.
Steve Cook narrates Swamp Murders. It is his only credited role. Cook speaks in a very folksy manner in the show, using phrases like “quicker than an alligator’s bite.”
The show’s primary interviewees consist of the law officials who worked the case. This includes more local law officials than federal law enforcement. It also does not include many of the civilians from other versions, such as Rowdy Foreman (although an actor plays him in the reenactment).
Timeline of Investigation
The timeline of the investigation fluctuates the most between all of the shows. Details that seem unimportant in one version lead straight to arresting the Agofskys in another. Often the key piece of evidence will involve either Shannon Agofsky’s fingerprints on a piece of tape or Joseph Agofsky’s odd spending habits after the crime. However, within that framework, what changes just as much as the timeline is the characterization of the people involved in the case. Characters most prevalent in one version of story will not appear in another.
Throughout all the narratives, Dan Short remains consistent, but changes based on how the show presents the story.
The original Unsolved Mysteries portrays him as a popular, well-liked if not charismatic man. The primary point the show makes about Dan is that he had a hard job, as he became president of the bank during an economic downturn. Law enforcement suspects that a disgruntled customer might have come after him.
In The FBI Files, Dan Short does not come up much as a character. Bank vice president Ullman says that he liked to work late in the evening and put the vault timelock on standby so he could come back at a later time and open the vault manually. The FBI Files mainly sees him as a victim and focuses more on the brothers. Besides the crimes, the only time the audience sees Short is when Joseph Agofsky cases out the bank. The only insight we get into him is a brief description from his estranged wife.
Forensic Files marks a change in the portrayal in Dan Short. The show portrays a more troubled version of Short who drinks too much. The show mostly portrays Dan Short through pictures. The primary picture of Short has him standing next to a teenage girl graduating from school. The actor playing him mostly appears in the recreation of the crime and the audience barely sees his face. When they say that it seems that Short left in a hurry, it cuts to a bunch of beer cans on a table.
Swamp Murders goes into many facets of Dan Short’s life, from his dissolved marriage to his drinking. At the time of his disappearance, Dan Short had given out some questionable yet legal loans. Therefore, he becomes either a more probable suspect or a more probable victim of a disgruntled customer. After he turns up dead, Law Enforcement eliminates him as a suspect.
Swamp Murders also has the most detailed version of his family. Ladell Farley goes to interview his estranged wife Joyce, who lives in St. Louis with their 17-year-old daughter Melanie (the Shorts also have a son in college). Farley says the Shorts were separated a year and a half based on what he understands to be Joyce’s choice. Farley questions Melanie in private. Melanie says that he was drinking too much days prior to this. Dan said that he drank because “he had to do something immoral at the bank or get fired.”
Finally, Dan drinking too much becomes a focal point of the crime recreation in Swamp Murders. When the Agofskys kidnap Short, he lies passed out in a chair, holding a glass. Close-ups include Short dropping a glass when the Agofskys wake him up. When the Agofskys pull Short out of the house, the camera focuses not on the crime, but on a bottle of alcohol in the foreground.
Between all versions, the suspects in the story change dramatically. Sometimes the story provides multiple suspects as characters, while other times suspects get briefly presented as red herrings. In almost all versions, the law initially clears the Agofsky brothers after they provide alibis and their firearms do not match.
In each version, the set of suspects usually fluctuates based on the show. The FBI Files does not present too many other suspects. Law enforcement suspects Short at the beginning, but all signs eventually point away from him. Forensic Files mentions two other brothers (Billy Ray Hankins and Larry Wayne Hankins) as possible suspects. Both were felons. However, their mother provided an alibi.
In Swamp Murders, almost every character is a potential suspect. The show amplifies suspicion by pointing out reasons and motives for somebody to do something. This includes Anita Meyers, a woman who finds a lot of coins along a river bed. Unlike the other suspects, the show makes the perpetrators seem innocent and cooperative at first. Swamp Murders also suspects everybody to the point of inconsistency. For example, the narrator will say that law enforcement already talked to the killer of Dan Short before introducing a new character and asking if he could be the killer.
Between all the shows, three suspects show up multiple times: Joyce Short, Wayne Boutain, and Gant Sanders.
Short’s wife comes up in every show except for Unsolved Mysteries. However, most feature her in slightly versions.
The FBI Files features Short’s estranged wife of 25 years at the beginning of the story. At the beginning, law enforcement brings her in to question her about her husband. She says that he loved his two children. However, beyond that, the show focuses more on the investigation into his murder. They do not suspect her or give her a Polygraph.
In Forensic Files, Investigators also interview Short’s estranged wife Joyce, as the police need to investigate all possible suspects. She says she knows nothing about the crime, takes a polygraph and passes.
Swamp Murders floats by Short’s ex-wife, Joyce, as a suspect. She worked at the bank with Short. In the reenactment, the actress playing Joyce plays with her hands when law enforcement shows up to ask about the bank robbery. When Dan turns up dead, law enforcement becomes suspicious of Joyce because she had a large 200-thousand-dollar life insurance policy on Dan and would also receive his estate. She also gets defensive when questioned again. Discovering that she did clerical work at the bank, they give her a polygraph test about the murder, but initially find her answers deceptive when asked if she had any responsibility in the death of her husband. However, when they change the wording of question, she passes. According to Farley, Joyce Short claims she felt guilty about leaving Dan, which could have led to the polygraph reading her answers as deceptive.
Both The FBI Files and Swamp Murders feature Wayne Boutain, a man who reported a stolen chain hoist (or chain falls, based on the version). Investigators express interest because they found a chain hoist around Dan Short.
In The FBI Files, a friend of Wayne Boutain tells law enforcement that Boutain might have information. Boutain had a chain hoist that Boutain believes had been stolen by the Agofskys. When shown a picture of the chain hoist, he identifies it by some damage on the hoist. Boutain later takes a lie detector test and passes. In this version, Boutain meets Farley in his car.
Swamp Murders presents a little different version of Boutain. After exhausting all leads, law enforcement reviews case files and finds the report of a stolen chain hoist. Wayne Boutain came forward about a stolen chain hoist. Law Enforcement Officials remain skeptical of Boutain because he has a criminal record. However, Boutain takes a polygraph test and passes. He does, however, mention that he believes that his neighbors, the Agofsky brothers, took his chain hoist.
A friend of the Agofskys, Gant Sanders, appears in both The FBI Files and Swamp Murders.
In The FBI Files, a good portion of the plot revolves around Gant Sanders, a friend of the Agofskys. Sanders first appears sitting on the Agofsky’s porch with Shannon.
Farley presses Sanders to testify, which the conflicted Sanders eventually does. Sanders testifies to another crime he and the Agofskys committed. According to Sanders, on a night in late December 1989, the Agofsky brothers broke into a house and stole some rifles. In the morning, Sanders and Shannon Agofsky drove across the Stateline to Arkansas and sold the guns. This is a federal violation.
Sanders then tells a story about Joseph saying that they should kidnap and banker and make him open the bank for them. For his testimony, Sanders gets to serve his sentence for gunrunning on probation. A picture of the real Sanders appears at the end of the program when they announce his sentencing.
In Swamp Murders, Gant Sanders exists, but he serves a much less pivotal role than in The FBI Files. He is the son of the man who designed the bank. The Agofskys asked if they could get the layout from him. Joseph also brings up the idea of kidnapping a banker in this one too. It feels like his testimony is another part of the puzzle rather than a big helpful tool.
In almost all the versions, police become suspicious when the Agofsky brothers start spending large amounts of money or brag about money. The longer shows (The FBI Files and Swamp Murders) bring up the Agofsky’s father, who died in a plane crash in 1980. The Agofskys and their mother got a settlement out of this. However, both longer shows have different viewpoints on the settlements. In FBI Files, Shannon cannot access his account until he turns 21. Swamp Murders says that he lost his 600 dollars per month in social security survivor benefits. Both longer shows also feature the image of Shannon looking out from behind blinds.
Since there are no real concrete perpetrators in Unsolved Mysteries, the film has their reenactment and eyewitnesses’ vague recollections of the perpetrators. In this one, there appear to be about four perpetrators rather than two or three.
The FBI Files has more scenes within the Agofsky family. It includes the Agofsky’s mother Sheila, who corroborates that her son was with her that night. It also gets more into the Agofsky’s habits and friends than any other show.
In Forensic Files, the audience gets to know a few details about the Agofskys through details brought up during the investigation. The Agofsky brother’s family members said they were at home on the night of the robbery. Joseph Agofsky bought a honeymoon to Disney land and a wedding ring. Shannon Agofsky apparently drew his attention to them by saying he was now “the richest teenager in the county.”
Swamp Murders sets up the perpetrators as the least suspicious people to start with. It makes the Agofskys seem dopey rather than threatening. However, the show also lights them so they more pronounced shadows over their face. Throughout Swamp Murders, such lighting often happens with the Agofskys. A great example with this is the polygraph scene. Unlike the other polygraph scenes, the character of Shannon has a hug black shadow across his face. The show also cuts to close-ups of Shannon’s hand and Shannon’s mouth. This lighting and cutting style makes sure that the audience does not relate to Shannon and knows he is guilty.
In all versions, Investigators end up arresting the unemployed Joseph Agofsky because of his habits before, during, and after the crime.
In The FBI Files, Joseph Agofsky is portrayed as the mastermind with Shannon Agofsky and an unknown accomplice as his helpers. Shannon and the accomplice are the ones who commit the murder. Joseph claims that he stayed with his girlfriend 40 miles away from Noel during this time.
Based on Sanders’ testimony on an illegal gun sale in Arkansas, Shannon gets arrested first for the separate crime. Law enforcement tracks him to a small town in Arkansas. Police find several bags of nickels in Shannon’s trunk.
Now law enforcement has to find a way to connect Joseph to the crime. Shannon make an incriminating phone call to Joseph, where he asks if they could put him at the scene. Joseph says they cannot. Law enforcement finds that they cannot convict Joseph on that alone, so they look into his financial and phone records. They find that the unemployed Joseph had spent 19,000 dollars in cash. Law enforcement felt he could not possibly explain how he had that much cash without a job. However, Joseph Agofsky’s alibi really falls apart when law enforcement look at his phone records and find that he called his girlfriend long distance in the days before and after the robbery. Joseph had claimed he had stayed with her the entire time.
Swamp Murders has law enforcement needing to get a court order for Shannon’s fingerprints, therefor, they need to gather more evidence. After Shannon passes the polygraph, law enforcement looks into the Agofky’s financial records. They find that Joseph Agofsky spent 19,000 dollars after the robbery. He spent mostly 100 dollar bills. This detail allows them to get Shannon’s fingerprints on December 12, 1990. Forensic investigators find the fingerprints match a month later. In March 1992, the federal grand jury in Springfield, Missouri indict and arrest both the brothers.
The other detail that changes between stories is Joseph Agofsky’s relationship status. Forensic Files has him getting married, while the others mentioned a girlfriend. Oftentimes, the audience does not see the character of the girlfriend, as she just provides an alibi.
In most versions, Shannon Agofsky’s story relates to him refusing to give his finger prints after his brother willingly gave his. These fingerprints will eventually be used to link Shannon to a piece of duct tape found on the chair.
In The FBI Files, Shannon says he will give up his fingerprints to police, but somehow never does. He finally grudgingly gives up his fingerprints after Farley serves him with a Subpoena.
In Swamp Murders, Shannon Agofsky does not give up his finger prints until forced to. Ladell Farley takes them in the office of the U.S. Marshall. Here, Shannon asks if it is possible to beat fingerprint testing. Farley tells him there is not. They wait for the match to come back a month later.
Swamp Murders also portrays Shannon as more of the ringleader of the group, while Joseph is portrayed as more of a follower. In the crime scenes, Shannon always antagonizes Dan while Joseph stands off to the side.
Shannon Agofsky also has the most colorful use of language of any of the characters in the show. He wakes Dan up by saying, “wake up, Mr. President.” He also threatens Dan by saying, “if I hear an alarm, you’re going to hear the sound of a gunshot and then Jesus welcoming you into his arms.” Finally, he also asks Dan if he’s “ready to go swimming” before shoving him over. These lines make Shannon seem like the more pronounced antagonist.
All versions present more perpetrators than just the Agofskys. Both Unsolved Mysteries and Forensic Files present at least one extra perpetrator in the background.
In the Unsolved Mysteries episode with Robert Stack, a truck driver who does not want to be identified sits in the shadows and describes a man driving a blue Chevy Luv. The truck driver had seen the Luv earlier in the week with the same driver. The Dennis Farina version does not include the driver plot. Short also mentioned feeling that he was being staked out and that his home had been broken into.
The FBI Files brings up the third perpetrator as part of their investigation and uses him in the recreation of the crime. The trucker Buddy Mills remembered seeing him. Neighbor Carol Dreyden recalled seeing several vehicles pulling into Short’s driveway. Dreyden also saw the blue vehicle around Short’s house a week before the crimes.
Swamp Murders points out that Police think there might be a third perpetrator based on the cameras and a smaller handprint on the wall, but it does not show more into more detail than showing the third perpetrator’s hands. However, it does not present it as a concrete fact as The FBI Files does.
Throughout each series, the investigators and their style of investigating changes from show to show. Most portray Farley as the primary investigator in the case.
Unsolved Mysteries just portrays the crime scene and not the investigation. It portrays multiple FBI agents at the scene working alongside the police. Later versions portray a single FBI agent coming in.
The FBI Files gets into the scope of the investigation. According to this, Farley and 22 other agents worked on the case and set up headquarters in a nearby armory. While Unsolved Mysteries portrayed multiple FBI agents showing up to the location, The FBI Files only portrays one: Ladell Farley. This version portrays Farley as more forceful, getting people like Gant Sanders and Shannon Agofsky to do what he wants.
Along with the main investigators, Forensic Files also adds two forensic experts. Now retired forensic chemist Robert F. Webb reconstructed the roll of duct tape, while now retired Fingerprint examiner Russell G. Davey get fingerprints off of it.
Swamp Murders portrays the investigation as being between a small group of law enforcement officials. In particular, the show primarily portrays Ladell Farley and Sheriff Don Schlessman as the two primary investigators. This version also explains that the FBI came in because any bank robbery immediately becomes a federal offense.
In another change of pace, Swamp Murders also portrays the investigation as more comedic. When law enforcement starts calling for tips, one of the calls comes in asks if Elvis might have done it. Similarly, Don Schlessman jokes that he might have been a suspect in the murder of Dan Short due to how many people they asked.
Polygraph tests become more important in Swamp Murders. In The FBI Files, FBI agents give Shannon Agofsky takes place in a motel room. Swamp Murders has it take place in an interrogation room with one polygraph examiner. The show also has one polygraph examiner who nods in the affirmative every time somebody responds truthfully. When the test finds Shannon giving a somewhat deceptive answer about stealing the chain hoist, the examiner shrugs.
Besides the suspects, perpetrators, and investigators, three of the shows include one other character: Rowdy Foreman, the man who found the duct tape.
Rowdy Foreman is a random Oklahoma man who heard about the case and found the piece of tape that would later convict Shannon Agofsky. He also lived near the bridge. The later three shows present Foreman in three different ways.
The FBI Files introduces Foreman going fishing with his son and daughter. They happen upon a wooden dowel and a piece of duct tape. He sent his son to the house to fetch plastic bags to put the chair part and the duct tape in. Sheriff Don Schlessman and his partner drove to Oklahoma to question him about it. According to Foreman in both The FBI Files and Forensic Files, their first response was, “oh, my God.”
Forensic Files introduces Foreman (who plays himself here) as he describes his son telling him that law enforcement had blocked off the bridge. When police left the area, Foreman decides to investigate himself. He goes down to the shoreline and walks from east to west until he finds a piece of duct tape along a fishing dock. Knowing not to touch the tape, he picks it up with a stick and places it in a bag. Later that day, he takes it to Ladell Farley’s office, who could not believe the luck of this.
Swamp Murders has the least amount of Foreman, who does not even appear in interviews this time. In this version, Foreman went out fishing and found pieces of the chair and duct tape. This program’s reenactment also has Foreman touching the evidence with his bare hands. In this version, it does appear that Farley has met Foreman, but that the tape came to his attention.
Each show emphasizes that this crime took place in a small town. The rough size of the town’s population changes vaguely from show to show, but most put it between 10,000 and 12,000 people.
In each show, there are about one or two lines of description about the town. Robert Stack’s Unsolved Mysteries goes more into the town of Noel early on. Stack points out that its primary industry is Chicken farming. In the Dennis Farina version, the setting is a little more obscured. The editing favors efficiency over atmosphere, so the show does not explore the bank and town as much. Part of this is also that the case has officially been edited.
The FBI Files plays up the innocent small town aspect of Noel. The ending of the show has the narrator saying Noel will never regain its innocence after the incident. Of all the versions, the setting here indicates the importance of cars for the Agofsky’s and Sanders. Many of the meetings between them and the authorities take place in junk yards.
Forensic Files brings up that Noel is the Christmas city and that “Christmas came early for someone in town” on the morning Short was murdered. It does this over the town sign (which has a tree on it) and a Christmas mural in town.
Swamp Murders plays up the waterways around Oklahoma. As a show about this specific subject, the show begins by emphasizing the swamp. The Christmas aspects of the town become much less important. Similarly, the show obscures the domestic settings by filming mostly in nondescript white walled buildings. The audience does not get a sense of the characters from their surroundings.
Every version of the show ends with the Agofskys going to prison. However, in each show, the emphasis of storytelling changes.
Both versions of Unsolved Mysteries have an updated epilogue that explains that the Agofskys have been caught and imprisoned. Both of these were added after the initial broadcast. The original has a text epilogue describing how Shannon Agofsky was convicted of murder and how the now deceased Joseph Agofsky was convicted of armed robbery. In the remake, Dennis Farina narrates an epilogue explaining what happened. the show misattributes Shannon Agofsky’s picture for Joe Agofsky and vice versa.
The FBI Files narrates how the court cases played out over Joseph being put in a cell and then watching his brother Shannon get taken away. While the third accomplice was never caught, law enforcement concluded that the Agofskys masterminded the plan and crimes. Earlier in the show, the Agofsky’s mother Sheila corroborated Shannon’s alibi that he was with her the night of the robbery. The law never charged Sheila for this.
Forensic Files focuses on murder charges than the life sentence charges for bank robbery. According to this, Shannon Agofsky was convicted of Dan Short’s murder and sentenced to an additional life term in prison. Joseph Agofsky’s case ended in a mistrial and prosecutors chose not to retry him as he was already serving a life sentence for armed robbery. All of this plays over interviewees and footage of the Agofskys being led around prison in brown prison clothes (most recreations put them in orange jumpsuits). As always, the show ends with somebody talking about the wonders of forensic evidence.
The Swamp Murders episode ends with Shannon peering out from behind the bars of a cell. Joseph sits further in his cell. This version both plays the archival footage and does a recreation with the Agofskys in orange jumpsuits. Reporter Gerald Elkins points out that there was a moratorium on the death penalty, which caused the brothers to receive a life sentence. Farley says they were both sentenced to life plus five years.
Perhaps the best encapsulation of all four shows’ handlings of the case is the character of Pauline Coonrod, the bank secretary. In the two shortest versions of the story (Unsolved Mysteries and Forensic Files), the show refers to Coonrod as a “bank employee” and does not elaborate further. The longer versions name Coonrod and give her more to do. The FBI Files portrays her as a younger woman, while Swamp Murders portrays her as an older woman. However, in all four versions, she serves the same purpose: to open the bank and find the robbery. Similarly, most of the role mostly stays the same, even though the characterization and emphasis changes wildly, depending on the style and subject matter of the show.