With a title like Worst Roommate Ever, Netflix’s latest true-crime series (March 1) promises a collection of wild residential horror stories. Thus, to be the vilest of the bunch is a truly dubious achievement—and in this case, that distinction goes to Jamison Bachman, a Philadelphia native who spent the better part of his life driving numerous women mad as a serial squatter. Capping off his decades-long reign of terror by murdering the only person in the world who cared for him, Bachman truly was the most monstrous roommate ever, and his saga is a stark reminder that when it comes to welcoming strangers into your home, renters should always beware.
Bachman was so awful that, though Worst Roommate Ever’s first three narratives each receive one episode, his spree receives two (based on William Brennan’s New York Magazine article of the same name), thereby capping off this jaw-dropping series. At the center of Bachman’s tale is Alex, who in 2017 posted a Craigslist ad looking for a roommate to share her apartment in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. Given its prominence in other stories as well, Craigslist seems to be the least reliable place imaginable to find a roomie, but Alex nonetheless trusted a man named Jed Creek when he promptly responded, met up with her in person (along with their dogs, who got along), and then agreed to share responsibilities as a co-lessee. Before Alex could take a breath, Jed was in her home with nothing but a few plastic crates, some bedding, and his dog—a surprisingly meager number of personal items for a man who, by all accounts, was a legal scholar who offered online tutoring services.
Despite promising to do so, Jed didn’t sign the lease agreement before moving in with Alex. And before long, he was refusing to do other things as well—like pay his fair share of the rent, and utility bills, and any other expense. Recounting this ordeal with a mixture of anger, astonishment and tears, Alex makes clear that, along with her mother Susan, she took matters into her own hands, at which point she discovered a troubling situation: Jed Creek was an alias being used by Jamison Bachman, and there were online articles about him being a serial squatter who’d tortured roommates up and down the East Coast. Moreover, as those prior victims had come to understand, Bachman was not only an amoral parasite but a shrewd one as well, using to his advantage local laws which stipulated that once a person had established residency (say, by receiving mail at a location), they were legal tenants and thus extremely difficult to evict.
As it relays Alex’s nightmare, Worst Roommate Ever also details the torment suffered by two of Jamison’s previous targets: former girlfriend Arleen and single professional Sonia, both of whom lived in Queens, New York, and learned in short order that Bachman was nearly impossible to escape. What would compel someone to behave in this lunatic fashion? A childhood classmate named Bob attempts to shed some light on Bachman’s adolescent difficulties living up to cruel and demanding relatives. Yet in the end, that barely suffices as a reasonable explanation, and the conclusion of Bachman’s tale—in which he kills his brother Harry, who had just bailed him out of jail and was, it seems, the only family member who cared about him—suggests that Bachman was a murderous sociopath from the start and destined to lethally snap.
Employing the same aesthetic for each of his five installments, series director Domini Hofmann revisits Bachman’s crazed conduct via interviews with victims and acquaintances, archival news broadcasts, photographs and home movies, and animated dramatic recreations of first-person testimonials, the last of which can sometimes prove a tad too cartoonish, but help convey the sheer nuttiness of these narrated tribulations. Worst Roommate Ever won’t win any style points, but Hofmann does make sure—in every instance—to respectfully focus on survivors and their experiences. There’s no glorification here, only outrage and disgust leveled at the perpetrators of these crimes, and deep empathy for those who unwittingly had to endure them.
“There’s no glorification here, only outrage and disgust leveled at the perpetrators of these crimes, and deep empathy for those who unwittingly had to endure them.”
There are many casualties highlighted by Worst Roommate Ever: a group of elderly men and women who were convinced to take up residence in the boarding house of seemingly compassionate grandma Dorothea Puente, only to have her drug and murder them in order to steal their social security checks (as it turns out, Puente had a rap sheet a mile long); Maribel Ramos, who was slain by her obsessive and volatile roommate K.C. Joy for not reciprocating his romantic advances; and Callie, who moved to Santiago, Chile, in 2011, rented a room in a house filled with international twentysomethings, and eventually wound up the target of Youssef Khater, an extreme marathon runner with a history of duping benefactors out of their money (including Palestinian patrons who thought he was one of their own; in truth, he was Lebanese). Callie ultimately wound up bludgeoned in an abandoned building and left for dead, wrapped up in a tarp and buried under some dirt in a closet. That she survived is a miracle, albeit still not as shocking as the fact that Khater only got 600 days in prison for this attempted murder, and is currently free.
Worst Roommate Ever is obviously a cautionary tale about the need to be hyper-vigilant when it comes to rooming with strangers; if nothing else, viewers will come away with a newfound appreciation for the need to run a thorough background check on anyone applying to live in their home. Just as importantly, though, it’s yet another Netflix effort—on the heels of The Tinder Swindler and The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman—that aims to actively out nefarious individuals whose primary goal in life is deceiving, exploiting and robbing innocent people as a means of propping up their own entitled existences. In that regard, Worst Roommate Ever isn’t merely a docuseries designed to shock and awe with stories about devious modern fiends; it’s also an exposé that provides a very real public service.