Inside ‘The Jerry Springer Show’ Episode That Ended in Murder

Daytime TV changed forever when The Jerry Springer Show came to fruition. While the show is remembered for cheating spouses, on-screen fights, and emotionally-involved audiences, the Jerry Springer-hosted series also made headlines when it became synonymous with murder in 2000.

‘The Jerry Springer Show’ ended in 2018

The Jerry Springer Show
Jerry Springer, 25th Season Spectacular | Virginia Sherwood/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

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In 2018, The Jerry Springer Show quietly called it quits after 27 seasons and more than 4,000 episodes. The show, hosted by Springer, had been on the air and in syndication since 1991.

NBC Universal didn’t make a huge announcement about the show’s cancellation and Springer didn’t release any personal thoughts about the end of the Springer era.

The daytime series began with a serious tone, things changed when ratings dropped. Springer and crew re-invented daytime talk shows aimed at a “younger” crowd with more controversial topics. However, even Springer admitted the show had “no redeeming value.”

“I just do it because it’s fun to do,” he told Entertainment Tonight in 2016 “And I’m not that good at golf. I think I’d go crazy if I retired. I’m always afraid not to be working. It’s psychological, I’m sure. If I ever have nightmares about something, it’s about not having a job, which is crazy, I know.”

In 2002, TV Guide deemed The Jerry Springer Show as “the worst show in television history.” Reruns are still available to stream on platforms such as Nosey.

“I can’t do serious subjects,” he told CNN. “I can’t do normal behavior. It doesn’t belong on our show. If someone calls our show with a warm, uplifting story, we send them to another show. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be on television, but they shouldn’t be on our show.”

The show filmed at least two episodes somedays — minimum — at the height of its success. With so many episodes and just as many salacious topics (such as “Adult Babies), one episode stands out for a whole other reason.

In 2000, one episode ended in murder

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The Jenny Jones Show set the stage for the talk-show-related crime. In 1995, a guest appeared on a “secret crush” segment and four days later he murdered the man who brought him to the show. He was convicted and sentenced for the crime.

As for Springer’s experience, the episode “Secret Mistresses Confronted” followed a similar tragic path. The show featured Ralf Panitz, his new bride, Eleanor Panitz, and Ralf’s ex-wife, Nancy Campbell-Panitz — who did not know Ralf re-married.

Eleanor moved into the home where Ralf and Nancy had allegedly reconciled. When she moved in, Nancy left and filed charges against the two of them for stalking.

CNN also stated that Nancy told the court she was “so scared” when Eleanor moved in.

“He’s frequently violent. That morning he had chased me with a knife and made threats about taking my life, ending my life, the way he was going to torture me,” Nancy said.

“He spent a couple of hours Sunday the day before telling me how he would kill me and my whole family, and he was trying to think of a way to do it.”

Things escalated with ‘The Jerry Springer Show’ appearance

Ralf argued otherwise but the judge ultimately ruled in Nancy’s favor giving her sole ownership of the shared Sarasota, Florida property. Ralf and Eleanor were forced to leave the residence. Ironically, Ralf’s nephew, Markus Panitz, also lived in the home and filed a separate restraining order against Nancy.

To settle things on national TV once and for all, Ralf and Eleanor agreed to appear on The Jerry Springer Show with Nancy in hopes of “humiliating” Nancy into leaving them alone.

The crowd was encouraged to join in Ralf and Eleanor’s tactics. Eventually, Nancy walked off the stage. Hours after the show had been broadcast, Nancy’s body was discovered in the Sarasota home just after Ralf and Eleanor returned for their belongings.

Police hunted soon after for suspects, Ralf and Eleanor, but the couple surrendered in Boston four days later. Their defense attorney, Geoffrey Fieger — who had also represented Dr. Jack Kevorkian — vehemently denied that Ralf had anything to do with the murder citing Nancy died from heart failure. He then re-directed blame to Markus, who called 911.

The verdict came after a 10-day trial

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In the end, justice prevailed. Jurors found Ralf guilty of second-degree murder. DNA evidence showed beneath Nancy’s fingernails along with footprints that matched Ralf’s at the scene of the crime. He also violated the domestic order in place, CBS News stated.

“This is a terrible tragedy,” Linda Shafra, a spokeswoman for The Jerry Springer Show said at the time. “The Sarasota County sheriff’s department contacted us and we are co-operating with its investigation.”

The Jenny Jones Show became defendants in a trial brought on by the family of the victim in their case. They were ordered to pay a $25 million settlement. However, a Michigan appeals court tossed the ruling, saying “the program had no legal duty to protect a guest who had appeared on the show.”

As for Springer, he kept his comments on the situation brief at the time.

”They happened to be guests on the show,” Springer told ABC. ”The show is television. This is life and death. Someone got murdered and I want to respect that and let the police do their work.” 

Campbell’s son, Jeffrey Campbell, filed a lawsuit alleging The Jerry Springer Show contributed to Nancy’s death. Attorney’s representing the family estimated a $25 million settlement, much like that of The Jenny Jones Show ruling.

The Campbell family later settled for nothing, referring to the results of The Jenny Jones Show.