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As a teenager, Dennis Pitt was institutionalized for burning down his home and accidentally killing his aunt. Now years later, he is on parole working in a chemical factory in a small New England town. Living in a paranoic's world, he becomes convinced that the factory is polluting the river and poisoning the entire Eastern seaboard. One day he meets Sue Ann Stepanek, a pretty high school drum majorette, who complains of the restrictions placed on her by her widowed mother. Dennis then poses as a CIA agent on orders to destroy the factory, and Sue Ann delightedly agrees to help him. On the night they attempt to sabotage the factory and unexpectedly encounter the night watchman, Sue Ann knocks the watchman unconscious and drowns him. When Dennis becomes the prime suspect because of his record, Sue Ann consents to run away with him to Mexico, but they return home for her clothes and are interrupted by the arrival of Mrs. Stepanek. Realizing that Dennis is incapable of murder, Sue Ann shoots her mother and orders Dennis to dispose of the body. Instead, he calls the police. At the hearing, Sue Ann denounces Dennis and watches casually as he is accused of the murders. Dennis, hopelessly in love with Sue Ann and aware that no one would believe him if he told the truth, makes no effort to defend himself, although Azenauer, his probation officer, believes him innocent. Some time later, Sue Ann meets another young man and begins to complain about the trouble she is having with her new foster parents.