What happens when a killer is released after spending decades behind bars? That’s the question Netflix’s latest docuseries explores. I Am a Killer: Released follows the life of Dale Wayne Sigler, a felon who killed a Subway employee 30 years ago. The three-episode series explores Sigler’s return to society and how one family handles the release of the man who killed their loved one.
The crime that would land Sigler behind bars happened in 1990. After a life filled with charges for petty crimes, Sigler robbed a Subway sandwich shop at gunpoint. During the holdup one Subway employee, John William Zeltner Jr., ran to the back room where Sigler shot him six times. For all of this bloodshed, Sigler only took $400 from the cash register.
What makes Sigler’s case so extraordinary is what happened after. Many authorities were stunned by the severity of Zeltner’s death. Homicide detective Tommy Lenoir actually referred to the shooting as “execution style” because there were so many wounds. Initially Sigler was sentenced to death row for his crimes, but that changed once the state of Texas changed its laws regarding jury selection.
Those laws were altered enough to grant Sigler a new sentence, which is how he changed from being a death row inmate to serving life in prison. I Am a Killer: Released picks up decades after that changed sentencing. While navigating the deeply changed world around him, Sigler has to also find housing, employment, and a life in town that has a difficult time looking past his sins.
I Am a Killer: Released is less about Sigler’s criminal record as it is about the question that’s haunted the legal system since the dawn of time: Can a former killer truly be reformed? For Sigler and his family, the answer to that question is yes. While in prison Sigler found faith in Christianity and regularly confesses to his crimes. For Zeltner’s surviving family members, the answer is emphatically no. No matter what side of the debate you land on, the resulting docuseries is a compelling examination of that all-powerful question.