WOONSOCKET — A 1991 city double murder will be recalled in an upcoming Discovery Channel networks crime program after a production crew wrapped up work on the project at The Call on Monday.
Call reporter Russ Olivo was interviewed by the Sirens Media crew for an upcoming segment of “Nightmare Next Door,” an investigative true crime documentary program on the Investigation Discovery Channel.
Olivo, veteran reporter for The Call, covered the murder of Tammy Petrin, 21, and her co-worker, Jenner H. Villeda, 24, as they showed up to begin morning set-up duties at the Social Street Burger King in 1991.
As the murder investigation headed by former Woonsocket Police Det. Brian Kane unfolded in subsequent weeks, months and years, Petrin and Villeda's deaths were linked to a murder-for-hire scheme worked out by Ronald M. Harnois, who married Petrin bigamously while still married to another woman. Harnois allegedly became obsessed with Petrin's murder while he was awaiting trial for the attempted murder of his legal wife, Joanne Harnois, with a car bomb in the Depot Square area in August of 1990. Harnois was subsequently charged in the Petrin and Villeda murders. Petrin was believed a potential witness in the car-bombing case and as a result Harnois allegedly hired Steven Wilson, a fellow inmate
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at the ACI, to kill Petrin at her place of work. Villeda, a janitor for the business, was believed to have been included in the plot simply because he was present at the time. Wilson died in 1997 before the investigation of the case was completed and state prosecutors won Harnois' conviction in the murders following a trial in November of 2000. Harnois is serving a life sentence for the crimes.
Tracy Evans, series producer for Nightmare Next Door, said the case caught the attention of a show researcher as he checked out a website for Lifetime movies related to the movie “Deadly Vows” based on the case.
The facts of Petrin's murder drew the production company's interest even though the story did not exactly fit the typical case in the series.
“We try not to do stories where the husband did it, but this case was so compelling because he was in prison at the time,” Evans said.
The series will allow people not familiar with the case to play “armchair detective,” while all the facts are laid out during the program, according to Evans.
After sitting in for his interview with Sirens Media field producer Pat Bates, Olivo, a reporter who has covered a long list of area murder cases over the years, he was surprised by the crew's thoroughness in investigating the facts of the case and looking over the scenes involved in crimes.
“They spent a long time making sure they got the shots and angles right and they asked a lot of questions,” Olivo said.
“I'm anxious to see how the finished product edits out,” he added.
As for the killing of Petrin and Villeda, Olivo said it is one of the most notorious of the cases he has covered as a reporter. “It's a heinous crime, one of the most heinous crimes in modern city history in terms of brutality and its cold-blooded savagery,” he said.