Local lawyer advised HBO’s ax-killing housewife series ‘Love and Death’

ATTORNEY
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Robert Udashen in 1980. Fort Worth Star-Telegram collection/ UTA Special Collections/UTA Library.

The Candace Montgomery story, about a local housewife who axed an acquaintance to death in the 1980s, is coming to HBO April 27, in the series Love and Death, starring Elizabeth Olsen and Jesse Plemons, a release date true crime fans have been awaiting.

Candy’s tale, with its number of Dallas and Collin County ties, is so gripping that it’s received several treatments for popular consumption, including a Hulu series, Candy, starring Jessica Biel.

One of the more fascinating things about the case is the legal defense of Candy, who was eventually found (SPOILER, though it’s been 40 years so)

… not guilty, by reason of self defense. The attorney who strategized Montgomery’s defense, Robert Udashen, became something of a legend in Dallas during the Candy era.

Udashen, a Thomas Jefferson High School grad, taught at SMU Law for more than a decade, and he told the Advocatethis one case contains enough legal lessons to fill a semester’s curriculum.

“Particularly at SMU when I was teaching there, I used to give talks on the many legal issues that came up working on that case,” Udashen said. “I think it put me on a path to be a really successful criminal defense lawyer. But at the time, I was so young, it was really learning by fire.”

I interviewed Udashen, now semi retired and spending summers in Asheville, South Carolina, right after Biel brought Candy to the screen last spring.

He discussed his role, as a consultant, in both recent productions.

For the Hulu show, he spoke extensively with Elisabeth Moss (on Zoom, because it was COVID times), who was initially slotted as Candy in Hulu’s series. Despite the actor switch, his insight informed the performance. Biel told Entertainment Weekly in 2022 that he was a “huge resource of information.”

Hulu’s Candy portrays Don Crowder as The Defense Lawyer (he’s played almost as a composite character, though Udashen is represented as an undeveloped courtroom figure). But in real life, the charismatic Crowder, who enjoyed the spotlight but who was not previously a criminal attorney, called on Udashen to help construct the defense.

Udashen, then 27, and the late Elaine Carpenter (who speaks in this ID show about the case) charted out the self-defense plea after spending untold hours with the accused housewife. Udashen is also the only surviving member of Candy’s legal team.

Udashen says viewers can expect more detail and accuracy surrounding the trial with HBO’s Love and Death, which is based on a painstakingly thorough Texas Monthly series candy-montgomerys-affair/”>“Love and Death in Silicon Prairie.”

“I’ve talked to all the actors involved in the HBO series, and I was there when they were filming scenes and helping try to make the trial scenes as accurate as possible,” said Udashen, who still has a criminal defense firm near NorthPark Center. “And maybe there’s always some artistic license involved in this, but HBO did want to be as accurate as possible. And that’s what my role was during the filming, to try to make sure they were.”

Silicon Prairie refers to the Lake Highlands and Richardson corridor where large technology corporations such as Texas Instruments are located.

In 1977, Candy Montgomery came to the Dallas area with her husband Pat, when he accepted a job at TI. That’s when they started attending the First United Methodist Church of Lucas, where they befriended Betty and Allan Gore (as well as Don Crowder).

Candy began an affair with Allan — they met frequently at the Como Motel off Central Expressway — a delightfully seedy joint with impressive staying power a mile or so from TI.

Some stuff happens and then Candy kills Betty with 41 blows from an ax. That’s the short version.

Udashen was generous with time and insight, drawing on his memory of the days and months before, during and following the verdict. He also shares his more recent experiences on sets and with actors and producers.

Here’s that full Robert Udashen interview, which was printed in Preston Hollow, East Dallas and Lake Highlands Advocate magazines last September. Here is a longer version of that transcript, too.

Despite 40 years of rehashing those 40+ strikes and all those days Candy kept quiet about what she did, Udashen says he still believes his client was innocent and that she acted in self defense.

“Even though there was a lot of hostility to that decision. Yeah, I think I think we got it right,” he said.

I asked Udashen, who has defended several other high profile cases including Lisa Diaz, a legally insane woman who killed her children, why he believes we keep getting new shows about Candace Montgomery. Udashen implied that it doesn’t take a brilliant lawyer to figure that one out.

“You’ve got an affair. Churchgoing housewives. An ax murderer.”

And a popular demand for that very variety of content.

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