Miss America is based on the true story of Melinda Elkins, a rural Ohio wife and mother of two whose life was upended by tragedy in 1998. Shortly after going public with the scandalous truth about Melinda’s illegal adoption, her mother, Judith Johnson, was brutally raped and murdered. Melinda’s six-year-old niece, Brooke, was also severely wounded in the attack and left for dead. Brooke survived and testified to police that the killer was her uncle Clarence, Melinda’s husband. Although Melinda was convinced that her niece was mistaken, and that the real murderer was still at large, circumstantial evidence and the perfect storm of hysteria, bad luck, police incompetence and corruption led to a verdict of guilty that would close the investigation and send Clarence Elkins to prison for life.
So began a seven-year ordeal that would test, nearly destroy, and ultimately transform the life of this seemingly ordinary American. Despite a profound lack of resources and support, Melinda tried every legal avenue to win an appeal for Clarence, but to no avail. Finally, at a dead end, Melinda took matters into her own hands, vowing to find her mother’s killer and bring him to justice.
Despite overwhelming odds, she eventually succeeded, winning Clarence’s exoneration and fulfilling the promise she made at her mother’s graveside. While the procedural true-crime aspect of this story has been the subject of several television documentaries, Melinda’s extraordinary internal saga has yet to be depicted—Miss America tells the story of her personal transformation from disempowered victim to fierce advocate for justice.
Script inquires: contact David Massar