Adapted from a book by Joan Barthel, A Death in California is a harrowing two-part TV movie based on fact. Cheryl Ladd plays Hope Masters, a wealthy Beverly Hills woman who is forced to watch in mute horror as a criminal sociopath (Sam Elliot) murders her boyfriend (Granville Van Dusen). She is kidnapped by the killer and forced to accompany him on a long and grueling getaway trip. Despite repeated sexual assaults, Hope forms something of a bond with her kidnapper. He allows her to go free, but Hope's ordeal is far from over; when the killer is recaptured, both he and Hope are put on trial for murder. Despite the tawdry nature of the tale, Death in California is handled with taste and tact, allowing the weirder aspects of the case to speak for themselves.
by Hal Erickson synopsis