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‘The Perfect Roommate’: Lifetime True Story Likely inspired By Sawan Navarat

The Perfect Roommate, the Lifetime true story movie is likely based on Sawan Navarat, according to Traciy Curry-Reyes’ research. The plot was switched several facts around, but Sawan’s case was most likely the model for the Lifetime movie. The Perfect Roommate true story had to do with a 47-year-old woman who worked in a Thai restaurant in a popular part of Brunswick. To all, the woman was quiet and sweet, but years earlier she shot and killed her husband’s female business partner/mistress and left the scene of the crime. She evaded police for almost a decade. The roommate in the real story helped Sawan Navarat escape when the police tracked her to that location. 

 

The Perfect Roommate (which true story is it based on) Synopsis

A college student uncovers her older roommate’s secret past.

 

 

The Thai Place restaurant in Brunswick, Maine, was the kind of place that offered a tasty life experience. Two main popular dishes: Chicken Satay and Peanut Curry were favorites among the patrons. But in December of 1991, the restaurant became the scene of a manhunt for a woman who killed her husband’s mistress and business partner. The plot switched several facts around, but Sawan’s case most likely inspired the Lifetime movie. The Perfect Roommate true story had to do with a 47-year-old woman who worked in a Thai restaurant in a popular part of Brunswick. To all, the woman was quiet and sweet, but years earlier, she shot and Orapin Ponvisutrakul and left the scene of the crime. She evaded police for almost a decade. The roommate in the real story helped Sawan Navarat escape when the police tracked her to that location.

Orapin Ponvisutrakul, age 42, was found dead in her doorway in Long Beach, California, on June 6, 1991. Records show that Sawan Navarat suspected Orapin of sleeping with her husband. Sawan’s old landlord told police he drove Sawan to Orapin’s home in Long Beach and later heard three gunshots. He said Sawan desperately tried to open the door, but Orapin’s body blocked the way. When Sawan finally got the door open, she nonchalantly stepped over the body and walked away from the crime scene, later vanishing until detectives tracked her to Brunswick, Maine. A look back at the case produced a tip, which led them to the small town of Brunswick, where they found Sawan waiting tables and managing the restaurant, along with her roommate and partner.

It was quite a scene, and no one could believe that Sawan Navarat could be capable of being so coldblooded. According to the Boston Globe, everyone said she was a “quiet and generous” woman who kept to herself. Sawan was not only cold-blooded…she was smart, later outwitting The US Marshals, the FBI, and other agencies who had descended upon the scene. At first, they arrested the wrong woman. By the time they realized it, Sawan was long gone.

Sawan Navarat was finally captured about a month later in Flagstaff, Arizona. In 2001, a guilty verdict was handed down for second-degree murder. It carried a sentence of possibly 15 years to life. It’s been hard to find out how much time Sawan served. Sawan’s family allegedly knew what she’d done and were embarrassed and hurt by her actions. However, they kept her hidden past a secret. While she was on the run for those ten years, she used different names to hide her identity.

 

Let’s break down the movie

The story takes place in a coastal town at a restaurant called “Tria.” Tria could be a play on the word Thai. Carey and Ashely work at the restaurant, and eventually, Ashley takes Carey in as a roommate. For her father’s birthday, Ashley plans on presenting him with a seascape painting since he’s building a hotel along the New Jersey Shore.

In the possible real story, the events took place at a restaurant called The Thai Place that was situated along the Androscoggin River. Sawan Navarat and her roommate lived in a small apartment above the restaurant.

In the movie, everyone gathers for the 50th birthday party for Ashley’s father. His ex-girlfriend walks up to him and tells him he hasn’t aged in a decade. In the Long Beach murder case, it took police a decade to find the killer. There are also many references to Carey being an older woman.

 

References to the Asian culture

One scene in the movie shows that Ashley’s father doesn’t accept her current boyfriend and steers her to date someone of his choosing. Parents in the Asian culture are often very strict about who their children date. They often choose the husband or wife for them. In another scene in The Perfect Roommate, Carey and Ashley’s father eat at an elegant Japanese restaurant, and when Carey first meets Ashley’s dad, she’s impressed with his painting collection by Zhung, a popular Asian artist.

 

“She’s Sweet”

Carey waits table but is stunned when an old acquaintance recognizes her from back home. He ends up telling Ashley’s boyfriend, Matt, that Carey is sweet, but her husband shot and killed his mistress years earlier. In the real story, neighbors, friends, and patrons of the restaurant described Sawan Navarat as little and “sweet” and wonderfully “sweet.” No one could believe Sawan could be so bold and dangerous. She stood only 5 feet tall and weighed 100 pounds.

Carey admits in The Perfect Roommate that she was married for five years to her first husband, who cheated on her.
In the Sawan Navarat story, her lover was married for about seven years to his first wife before marrying Orapin in 1987 in New York.

The Real Woman

[image from the files of Traciy Curry-Reyes via The Boston Globe]

Carey has a partner in crime. In a similar true story, Sawan Navarat’s roommate was also her business partner. She even helped Sawan escape by tipping her off when police arrived at the restaurant to arrest her.

Here are the various spellings of the victim’s name. Her real name was Orapin Ponvisutrakul. But, she is referred to as Opapin Pornvisutrakol and Orapin Ponvisutrankhl. Her maiden name is possibly Orapin Sripakdee.

 

 

 

[Main image via Lifetime and Boston Globe]


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 Examiner.com and Inquisitr.com. 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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