The headline-grabbing true story of the 1981 killing of Elana Steinberg at the hands of her husband in Scottsdale, AZ, and the sensational murder trial that followed, is getting the small screen treatment. Murder of a Jewish American Princess, based on Shirley Frondorf’s nonfiction book, Death of a Jewish American Princess: The True Story of a Victim on Trial, is being developed into a true-crime limited series. Murder of a Jewish American Princess hails from journalist/author Cari Lynn, who penned the pilot, and Tom Mazza’s Everywhere Studios, which plans to shop the project to prospective buyers shortly.
Per Lynn and Mazza’s official description, the series is “based on the brutal 1981 murder in Scottsdale, Arizona, of Elana Steinberg, who was labeled in the courtroom and the media as the quintessential “Jewish American Princess.” Defense lawyers used the moniker to paint a picture of a beleaguered husband, Steven Steinberg, at his wits end, with no recourse other than to murder his wife. Despite the preponderance of evidence against him, the defense worked: Steven Steinberg walked out of the courtroom a free man.”
Steinberg was charged with killing his wife by stabbing her 26 times. He did not deny killing her, but claimed he was sleepwalking at the time and not sane, and therefore not responsible for her death in a legal sense. Bolstered by defense testimony from psychiatrists, he was acquitted by the jury.
Lynn first learned about the story after being introduced to Steven Steinberg at her brother’s wedding, then discovered Frondorf’s book.
“I was outraged by this story and how much this still resonates today,” said Lynn. “It’s about what happens when facts cease to matter, and about the ease of words to indoctrinate. The simple but lurid catchphrase of ‘JAP’ condemned a victim and freed a murderer.”
“It’s an unbelievable yet true story with a fascinating cast of characters, and we are thrilled to be bringing this to the marketplace,” said Tom Mazza, CEO of EveryWhere Studios. “It’s set in a sunny world of pool parties, golf games and young, seemingly happy couples—the last place one would expect such a brutal murder. Shining a light on victim shaming, the devaluation of truth, the perilous drive to win at all costs, and the pervasiveness of prejudice, this is an important story to tell today.”
Lynn wrote the nonfiction books Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women, for which she won an NAACP Image Award; Leg the Spread: Inside the Trillion Dollar Boys’ Club of Commodities Trading; The Whistleblower: Sex Trafficking, Military Contractors and One Woman’s Fight for Justice; and the historical novel, Madam. Her articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Oprah’s O magazine, the Chicago Tribune, and on Deadline. Lynn is repped by Robb Rothman of Rothman, Brecher, Ehrich, Livingston.
EveryWhere Studios is a partnership between former Sony and Paramount Television executive Tom Mazza, and former Chairman of Helifilms David Calvert-Jones.
Development is run by ex-Disney film executive Karen Glass. Current projects include the feature Out of My Mind, based on the best-selling book, in pre-production at Disney+, When Christmas Was Young, a holiday movie for CBS, with Executive Producer Sheryl Crow and Christmas Class Reunion for Hallmark.
Deadline's Denise Petski contributed to this post.