In 1984, 16-year-old Patricia Bailey watched Farrah Fawcett in NBC’s wife-abuse drama The Burning Bed. ”I told myself it was nothing like my life,” she recalls, speaking in the softest of voices. ”I didn’t know what emotional abuse was. I didn’t know that such a thing as sexual abuse existed. I thought my house was perfectly normal.” It was anything but: Since childhood, Bailey says, she had been sexually abused by her older sister’s husband, and that year, he manipulated the teenager into conspiring to kill her sister — a crime for which she’s now serving time in the California Youth Authority’s Ventura School. Bailey’s trial drew eager media scrutiny, and on Feb. 17 and 18, the spotlight turns on her again, when NBC broadcasts Love, Lies and Murder (see the review here, a four-hour miniseries that tells her story. Bailey, who turned 23 on Feb. 10, cooperated with the filmmakers ”because I have to continue to confront my crime” and ”because I want abused people to know that there’s hope.” But when she looks ahead, she can’t conceal her sorrow: ”I had real hopes of being a nurse,” she says, ”but I was told that because of being in here, that can never happen.” Instead, Bailey hopes to become a physical therapist after she’s released in 1993.
Before filming began, Bailey nervously agreed to meet actress Sheryl Lee (Twin Peaks‘ Laura Palmer), who plays her. ”I was expecting some big, high person who would never associate with normal people,” she says, and then hesitates, embarrassed. ”I don’t mean normal. I know it’s not normal to be where I am. But Sheryl was really kind. She gave me an arrowhead necklace that her grandfather gave her. And she said that when I feel I’ve accomplished something and become the person I want to be, then I should give it to someone else. But there’s so much I still ” Her voice trails away. ”I think I’m going to wear it for a long time.”