'I Faked My Own Death' a hit for Discovery Channel

The Discovery Channel premiered a new show this weekend that is both entertaining and a little eerie. “I Faked My Own Death” tells true stories of real individuals who staged their own deaths at some point in their lives.

The show’s premiere on Sept. 3 introduced us to Benjamin Holmes, a car mechanic from Youngstown, Ohio and Marcus Shrenker, a businessman from Indiana.

While working as an auto repairman in the '70s, Holmes was asked to make a muffler for a gun. He refused, but not before word had already gotten around that Holmes was the right man for the job. A corrupt police officer named Jeffrey “Pitbull” Whitaker and a gangster associated with the Italian Mafia also began to pressure Holmes to outfit their guns with silencers.

On the night of Oct. 31, 1979, Holmes returned to his home to discover that all of the lights in his house were off, including a light that he had always left on. When he entered his home and hit the light switch, he was engulfed in a fiery explosion. The light switch had been connected to a bomb.

While in the hospital for treatment of the burns he suffered, Holmes was visited by Pitbull, who accused him of attempting to burn down his own house to collect insurance money.

Several weeks later, after leaving the hospital, Holmes saw on the news that he was wanted for a crime that he did not commit. It was then that Holmes realized that Pitbull must be the one setting him up.

Holmes then decided he had no choice but to fake his own death. He set the stage for a murder inside his car, using a syringe from his medicine cabinet to withdraw and splatter his own blood around the car in an attempt to make it look like he was shot. He left the car running on a deserted road and headed for Lorain, Ohio, where his friend Larry was waiting for him.

Over the next several months, Holmes grew a beard and let his hair grow long. He bought a fraudulent driver’s license and tattooed himself to cover the burns on the backs of his hands. He eventually found work in an auto shop.

In 1988, seven years after his disappearance, Holmes was presumed dead and his wife was issued a death certificate. She then collected a $100,000 life insurance check for the presumed loss of her husband.

With the extra money, Holmes moved with his wife and young daughter to a new neighborhood in Youngstown. Twenty years after his “death,” Holmes caught his wife having an affair, confronted her, and was shot by his wife seven times in his midsection. He was rushed to the hospital, where a high school classmate working as a nurse recognized him.

Holmes was then found out, but no charges were filed against him due to the corruption that was rampant in the police department during the time of his disappearance. He still lives in Youngstown and is currently writing a book about his life.

The show is currently set to air more episodes and recount the tales of even more individuals who successfully staged their own demises. “I Faked My Own Death” airs Saturdays at 10 p.m. on the Discovery Channel.

Reach the reporter at cemurph2@asu.edu

Click here to subscribe to the daily State Press newsletter.

Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.