Marsh Girl Behind Bars: Guilty or Innocent


Lily Daher, Scarlet Staff

TW: Mentions of Rape


If you have not read or seen Where the Crawdads Sing, I suggest that you put this article down and go read or watch it. Then, come back and read this, because you might feel the same way I did when I turned the final page and when the credits came on at the end of the movie. 

I would classify the movie as one of few that accurately portrayed the novels, including characters, plot, and setting. The ending was accurate as well, however, that’s one thing about the novel I would like to discuss. 

Prior to the release of the movie on July 15, Where the Crawdads Sing was one of the biggest reads of the summer. However, the novel had popularity prior to the movie’s release. The novel was published on August 14th, 2018 and gained popularity in the reader community quickly. It had been on the New York Times bestseller list for forty-eight weeks by the time its first anniversary was celebrated. It went on to spend two years on the bestseller list and by May 29, 2021 eleven million copies had been sold! The novel also won awards in the United Kingdom and Japan. 

In Where the Crawdads Sing, we follow Kya Clark as she is arrested for the murder of local town heartthrob Chase Andrews. The townspeople in Barkley Cove are eager to place the blame on Kya. They don’t understand the “wild and untamable marsh girl” so to them she’s the obvious suspect. However, the people of Barkley Cove don’t get an immediate answer since Kya had a solid alibi stating that she was nowhere near Barkley Cove the night of the murder. She was in Greenville with her publisher. However, the Andrews family lawyer, Eric Chastain, brings up that she could have taken the latest bus from Greenville to Barkley Cove, immediately gone to kill Chase and then gone back to Greenville. 

Chastain calls witnesses to the stand who testify saying they saw Kya on the bus disguised as a man. He also calls witnesses saying that they heard Kya threaten Chase with murder. Chastain brings up a very compelling argument stating that Kya coming back from Greenville just in the nick of time is a high possibility. 

Kya’s lawyer, Tom Milton, does an incredibly good job of defending Kya in court. He insists that with the argument Chastain brings up that it would have been impossible for Kya to come from Greenville to Barkley Cove and back at the time of the murder. When he questions Chastain’s witnesses, he gets one of them to admit that it was not definitely Kya that they saw, but someone who simply looked like Kya who could have been dressed as a man. As for the witnesses claiming that Kya threatened Chase with murder, Tom states that it could have very well been in self-defense for Kya to say that. 

Another piece of evidence brought against Kya were strands of red fabric found on Chase’s clothes the night of the murder that belonged to one of Kya’s hats. In regards to this piece of evidence, Tom argues that the fabric did in fact belong to Kya but it could have been there for years. There was no way of telling how long it was there, which means that while Kya and Chase were still on good terms it could have fallen off onto an old shirt of his.

Kya gave Chase a necklace that went missing the night of the murder. Chase’s wife and mother knew about the necklace and said that he never lost it, so they adamantly believed that Kya was the murderer seeing as she gave it to Chase. 

One thing that the reader/watcher learns about that the rest of the characters in the novel do not, is that Chase tried to rape Kya while intoxicated one night. The witnesses claiming they heard Kya threaten Chase don’t know the reason why she did, but here we see a motive for Kya wanting to kill Chase. 

At the end of the trial, Tom states that if Kya were to pull off the murder there would have been a slip up somewhere, and that she never would have been able to make it back to Greenville at the time she did. He states that the necklace could have fallen off during the murder, and that there was no real motive (that was mentioned in court) for Kya to kill Chase. The evidence presented that could support Kya killing Chase is based on what-ifs, as opposed to facts. 

The jury eventually votes that Kya is not Chase’s killer. She is found innocent and goes off to live with Tate, her partner, and dies in her boat when she is much older. 

After Kya’s death, Tate goes through her belongings and finds the necklace that she had given Chase Andrew’s before he died. Tate then realizes that Kya was in fact responsible for Chase’s death.

The ending of both the novel and its film adaptation seemed forced. The whole point of Kya being found innocent was that it would have been impossible for Kya to have pulled off the murder between the lack of credible witnesses and lack of adamant facts. The entire case was built off what the police and Chase’s lawyer thought happened. For every case Chase’s lawyer made, Kya’s lawyer argued that it was highly unlikely and that it was only coincidence. The audience knows the motive was there for Kya to kill Chase. However, it made the entire court case they had proving Kya’s innocence pointless since Kya’s lawyer made counterarguments claiming that Kya would have had to perform the impossible to perform this murder. The ending of both the film and the movie makes appear that Kya did the impossible in pulling off the murder of Chase Andrews. 

Knowing the reason why Kya killed Chase, it makes me think, do fans of the book and film think that Kya was justified in killing Chase? Was the Marsh Girl guilty or innocent?