ABC-TV's "Prime Time Crime" news program is featuring the work of Mel Hanks, an assistant professor of information networking and telecommunications at Fort Hays State University, in a one-hour special network presentation at 9 p.m. Central time on Wednesday, June 25.
The show features the repercussions of Hanks' 1989 television investigative report in Arkansas concerning the mysterious death of 15-year-old Janie Ward near Marshall, Ark., during a party in a remote cabin in the Ozarks. The Arkansas medical examiner at the time ruled that Ward died of a broken neck as a result of an accidental fall off a small porch. Hanks, who was an investigative reporter for a Little Rock television station, was the only broadcast journalist at the time who probed the possibility that Ward may have been murdered.
"We wanted Mel's help," said Teri Whitcraft, national producer for ABC News’ Law and Justice Unit, "because he was the primary TV investigative reporter back then who covered this story and who still had the video from that time period and some of the background that we needed to turn the Ward case into a national broadcast."
"I always tell my students to do the best they can on any broadcast story they cover," said Hanks, who has taught media studies courses in the INT Department since 2005. "You never know when one of their stories can be resurrected years, even decades, later, so their original report better be able to stand the test of time."
Hanks began working with ABC News on this project after the network contacted him at FHSU in May 2006.
"We at ABC News really appreciate Mel's professionalism and especially his work back in 1989, when many news organizations in Arkansas chose to ignore the story," said Whitcraft.
The ABC News special will be broadcast locally on the network's Wichita affiliate, KAKE-TV.