TV Crime Sky

‘Death Of A Cheerleader’: A True Story Lifetime Remake

Death of a Cheerleader, a true story Lifetime movie remake based on the Kirsten Costas murder case in Orinda, California airs in 2019.  It stars Aubrey Peeples as teen killer Bridget Moretti and Sarah Dugdale as Kelly Locke. Lifetime’s cult-classic movie is a remake of the old Death of a Cheerleader (A Friend To Die For), which aired for the first time on September 26, 1994, on NBC. Then it aired on Lifetime Television and Lifetime Movie Network (LMN). You can catch the old Death of a Cheerleader movie online at

Here’s one more treat. Kellie Martin, who played Angela Delvecchio, which was based on the real Bernadette Protti, plays the detective in Lifetime’s 2019 Death of a Cheerleader reboot. Kelly Locke’s character was Stacy Lockwood in the 90s version, which was based on Kirsten Costas. The original Death of a Cheerleader movie is inspired by Randall Sullivan’s Rolling Stone article by the same name. It gave the most accurate and in-depth account of the Orinda, California murder.

Death of a Cheerleader 2019 Lifetime Movie Plot

When a pretty and popular Bobette’s member and Hollybrook high school cheerleader is stabbed to death, the killing rocks a wealthy suburban town. Police zero in on kids who live on the fringe. But a deeper investigation reveals that Bridget Moretti, a smart but pitiful teen, who was so desperate to “fit in” with the school’s most popular cheerleader, may have concocted a new way to get close to her idol, leading to deadly consequences.


[Second Photo via Lifetime Television/Permission use granted]


Death of a Cheerleader: The True Story That Inspired The Lifetime Movie

The real Kirsten Costas, a pretty varsity cheerleader, died on the doorstep of a neighbor’s home on June 23, 1984. The Miramonte High School teenager had accepted a ride from Bernadette Protti, a fellow classmate and Bob-o-Links club member who lured her with a fake party invitation. Police say the plan was for Bernadette to be close pals with Kirsten.

For months, everyone speculated that a punk rock female classmate had committed the murder. Everyone was in disbelief when Bernadette Protti was arrested. A profile of the killer led them to her since she didn’t make the cheerleading squad. Protti confessed to the murder in a letter to her mother and then to police.

[Photo via Facebook]

About Kirsten Costas (The Real Kelly Locke)

A privileged and popular teenager, Kirsten did everything right. She was on the cheerleading squad, she was athletic, she had lots of friends, and she was an exclusive hospital volunteer. According to classmate Nancy Kane Mark (the girl who left town), Kirsten Costas represented the “all-American perfection.”


So was Kirsten Costas a bully, a mean-girl, or not? Well, that depends on who you ask. Some have stated that Kirsten Costas was a mean-girl a lot of the time. Though no one deserves to be murdered for being unkind.

After Kirsten’s murder, many of the girls were afraid to return to school that fall, according to one boy, and everyone was looking out for a mustard or gold-colored Pinto and blonde female classmates.

Kirsten Costas’ father, Arthur Costas, talked to the media almost three months later and said he believed his daughter knew her killer. He also thought the killer was probably a student at the same school—someone who was jealous of Kirsten because she represented “the establishment.” And he added one last bit of speculation—that someone else other than the killer knew the truth but kept it hidden.


[via Death of a Cheerleader/old Blogger site/Traciy Curry-Reyes]

About Bernadette Protti (from Traciy Curry-Reyes’ Old Notes )

Though Bernadette Protti’s parents did well for themselves financially, Bernadette didn’t consider her family to be young, rich, attractive, and elite like Kirsten Costas’ parents. At the time of the murder, Bernadette’s father was retired from the utility company in San Francisco. He had been a supervisor there, and her mother was a stay-at-home mom, and a faithful Bible-reader who donated large sums of money to the Catholic church.

I was told just recently by someone very close to the case that Bernadette had nice things. In fact, she was known to ask, “How do I look?” when she got a new outfit. But she still desired designer clothes like Kirsten Costas’.

Protti’s family put a lot of emphasis on giving their time and money to the church and showing compassion. These days, I heard Bernadette’ Protti’s mother is somewhat bitter by what happened to her daughter.

Bernadette Protti’s parents were well aware that she has always dealt with feelings of extreme jealousy. According to her father, Raymond Protti, Bernadette was also jealous of other rich girls at the school, not just Kirsten. Psychologists said that she also suffered from low self-esteem. What would be a normal disappointment for another teen would crush the very spirit of Bernadette Protti and stir feelings of anger because she just couldn’t seem to do well and believed she failed at everything.

The real Miramonte High School expected high achievement, and the principal encouraged the kids to compete. In the true crime documentary (Killer Kids), Traciy Curry-Reyes stated the following.

“He [the principal] wanted people to crush the competition. It wasn’t enough to be good, you had to be the best!”

During opening statements, Prosecuting Attorney John Oda went over the details of the crime scene and the injuries that Kirsten Costas sustained. She received five stab wounds. Three of those stab wounds hit vital organs, which caused her death. He also highlighted Bernadette Protti’s callousness, which he said could be seen in how normal she acted after the brutal crime.

This case gained national attention. It was covered heavily in California by the local media in Orinda and San Francisco. People’s Magazine and Ladies Home Journal wrote about the murder, too.


[Photo via Lifetime Television/Permission use granted]

Death of a Cheerleader movie (2019) versus The Real Kirsten Costas and Bernadette Protti story.

  1. The name of the real town was Orinda.
  2. Bernadette came from a very strict religious Catholic background.
  3. In the movie, Bernadette sat with her attorneys. In the real courtroom, Bernadette sat with her mother and her sister. Her mother held her hand during most of the proceedings, and they often cried.
  4. Bernadette’s taped confession and her handwritten note were read in the courtroom. They say you could hear a pin drop.

Even though most people in the city of Orinda wanted to see Bernadette prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, she had supporters. They believed the killing was influenced by Orinda’s atmosphere that led to Bernadette’s feelings of inadequacy—the strong desire to succeed, the air of affluence, and the fierce competition between some of the girls. In the Killer Kids Kirsten Costas documentary, Orinda resident Suzanne Barr confirmed this notion about the “bedroom community.”

“The competition worked well for the boys. But the girls were a little nasty to each other.”


[from the files of Traciy Curry-Reyes]

Before this all happened, no one had a bad thing to say about Bernadette. No one. Everyone liked her. One person who employed Bernadette as a babysitter was in shock, stating it all had to be “a terrible mistake,” and that she had no idea who else she could trust with her children because Bernadette, according to the woman, was “full of grace, sympathy, and love.” Others described the killer as sweet and caring.

For the murder of Kirsten Costas, Bernadette Protti was sentenced to nine years in a juvenile facility. She was released in 1992. She now lives under a new name. Sixteen years later, Traciy Curry-Reyes discovered her new identity.


In a letter to the editor in March of 1985 in response to a San Francisco Chronicle article about the murder. A reader named Adriana H. Schwartz of San Francisco gave her take on the tragedy.

“The Protti-Costas case is a sad, sad example of what the youth of today are up against. The peer pressure to succeed socially, good looks, nice clothes, the right friends, has superseded the learning of down-to-earth human qualities and values: moral goodness, human compassion, and basic self-truth. I am not saying that what Bernadette Protti did was justified, but it is important to try and understand what motivated her to commit such an act.

Who is really to blame? School officials who may not have been concerned enough or aware of those students who seem troubled and/or unable to cope with the societal microcosm that is high school in the 80s.

The parents who may be unknowingly imparting their own narrow-mindedness about those who are less fortunate than themselves on their children. Whatever the cause, the effect is devastating: depression, suicide and in this case, murder.

Where did the system break down? Where were the teachers, counselors, parents when this girl so obviously must have needed help[? As adults, we are responsible for making young people feel good about themselves. That no matter who or what they are, their lives are valuable and important, and, sadly enough, so too are the lives of others.”

Here’s another opinion about the murder of Kirsten Costas by Michael S. Rubin of San Francisco.

“Like every civilized person, I am appalled at Bernadette Protti’s reaction to her lack of acceptance at an Orinda public high school. I am not much less appalled, however, by the lack of understanding displayed by her classmates, the very persons who created the social environment from which such an incident might arise. If these teenagers have been properly quoted in the newspapers and on television, their misunderstanding of our legal system and bloodlust are quite observable. Further, from what I have seen of these kids on television, I frankly wonder whether their reactions would have been the same if a bouncy, popular girl had murdered a classmate who was unattractive, idiosyncratic, or too somber for their tastes.”

That same month, Laura Tarabini of Palo Alto weighed in, stating all kids face intense pressure but deal with it in ways other than murder. She also said she had “profound sympathy “for the Protti girl and her family,” but found it “mind-boggling” that Protti’s defense attorney believed the trial damaged Protti’s psyche and humiliated her. Tarabini puts it all in perspective here.

“That 16-year-old child murdered another human being and then did not come forward for six months. () She may be humiliated, but Kirsten Costas is dead.”


Lifetime’s 2019 Death of a Cheerleader true story remake is produced by Just Singer Entertainment and Reunion Pacific Entertainment. It airs Saturday, February 2nd at 8 p.m. on Lifetime.



[Main image via kirstencostasmovie.blogspot/Traciy Curry-Reyes files]

Traciy Curry-Reyes

Traciy Curry-Reyes is the founder and editor-in-chief of TV Crime Sky. She began her career as a true crime & entertainment freelance writer in the 1990's for her website, The Movies Based on True Stories Database/Archives. She has contributed content to other websites, such as and Traciy also appears as a true-crime expert and commentator on TV One's Fatal Attraction, For My Man, and Justice by Any Means; Investigation Discovery's Murder Calls and Scorned; Oxygen's Snapped; FOX's Crime Watch Daily; and Lifetime Television's Killer Kids.



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