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The Eerie Crime Connection Fans Noticed About Ozark's Darlene

The hit Netflix crime drama Ozark has no shortage of ruthless villains, and in the beginning of the series, one of the most brutal hides in plain sight. While at first, the impulsive Darlene (Lisa Emery) is set up as the loud but fangless spouse of local crime lord Jacob Snell (Peter Mullan), that pretense evaporates when the drug cartel Del (Esai Morales) shows up at the Snell home to hammer out a deal in the season 1 finale — and suddenly, you learn just how sharp Darlene's fangs really are. 

Darlene evolves to become one of the most captivating and terrifying of Ozark's characters.  While she's done plenty to earn a reputation of acting without thinking, she's also proven to be just as manipulative as Jason Bateman's Marty Byrde or his wife Wendy (Laura Linney). In a series filled with drug lords, crooked law enforcement, murderers and money launderers, Darlene has the distinction of committing some of the most unforgivable and coldhearted crimes in Ozark, and yet that doesn't stop her from being just about the most sanctimonious characters in the show.

In late 2020, Darlene's story apparently had some fans on Reddit wondering if this fascinating villain was based on anyone in the real world. They think they found someone who matches the description, and whether they're right or wrong, we think the similarities they point out are worth mentioning.

Warning! Spoilers for Ozark's first three seasons follow.

Darlene's Ozark story is twisted

Before anything else, let's remember what is, arguably, the most twisted things that Darlene has ever done, because they have a lot to do with the fan theory in question.

It's after Marty Byrde offers to build Pastor Mason Young (Michael Mosley) a church — with which he plans to launder money — that the Snells turn their attention to Marty in a big way. Pastor Young preaches to his parishioners on Lake Ozark, as they listen from speed boats. It turns out the Snells secretly use these water sermons  to distribute heroin. If Young moves his parish to church on land, they lose their distribution. Mason eventually learns of both Marty and the Snells' crooked intentions, so he not only burns down the church that was being built for him, but refuses to continue his sermons on the water. In retaliation, Darlene murders his pregnant wife Grace (Bethany Anne Lind). They cut her newborn out of her and leave the baby waiting in Young's home.

Things go from bad to worse for the pastor in season 2, including winding up homeless and preaching on the street. Before the season is over, Marty is forced to kill Young during an ugly confrontation. The Byrdes take care of Zeke after his father's death, but Darlene feels the yearning to be a mother. After the Byrdes refuse to hand over the baby, Darlene kidnaps their son Jonah (Skylar Gaertner) as a warning. In the season 2 finale, Darlene becomes Zeke's new mommy.

It's Darlene's involvement with Grace's murder, and her fixation on raising Zeke, that inspired this new theory.

There are some striking similarities between Ozark's Darlene and a real life killer

In November 2020, the Reddit user with the handle stocazzo24 asked other Ozark fans if they thought Darlene Snell could have been inspired by the real life story of Lisa Marie Montgomery and the murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, pointing out some of the eerie similarities between real life and fiction. 

The most obvious similarity is Montgomery's crime. In 2007, as reported by BBC News, Lisa Montgomery was convicted of kidnapping resulting in death. Three years earlier, Montgomery strangled the pregnant Bobbie Jo Stinnett and cut her baby out of her with a kitchen knife, just like the murder of Grace Young in Ozark. Just as Darlene is older than Grace in the show, Montgomery was 36 when she killed Stinnett, while the latter was only 23. While Montgomery was from Kansas, she traveled 175 miles to Missouri — the state in which Ozark is set — to kill Stinnett and take her child. 

Then, there's the way Montgomery lured her victim into a false sense of security. Montgomery found Stinnett — a professional dog breeder — on an online forum about rat terrier dogs called "Ratter Chatter" (via BBC News) Before driving to Missouri, Montgomery made an appointment to look at some of Stinnett's puppies — and she used the alias "Darlene Fischer."

There hasn't been any word from Ozark's cast, writers, or producers on whether or not stocazzo24's post has any merit, but considering the striking similarities in their stories, either there was definitely some inspiration — conscious or otherwise — culled from Montgomery's crime, or it's an absolutely astounding coincidence. As for Montgomery, two months after stocazzo24's post, she became the first woman executed by the federal government in 67 years.