An Obvious Suspect

Posted May 31, 2015 11:00 p.m. EDT
Updated February 28, 2019 11:33 a.m. EST

When Josephyne and Ailene Davis were murdered in their Bladen County home in September 1976, Joseph Sledge, who had escaped from a nearby prison hours before their murders, was an obvious suspect.

A jury convicted Sledge of the murders based largely on the testimony of two jailhouse snitches and expert testimony that hairs found on the victims’ bodies were similar to Sledge’s. What the jury never heard was evidence that pointed to a different killer, including bloody fingerprints, palm prints and shoe prints.

Investigations by the NC Center on Actual Innocence and the NC Innocence Inquiry Commission uncovered all of that evidence. The surviving jailhouse snitch admitted he lied on the stand and DNA testing of the hairs proved they did not belong to Sledge. A three-judge panel declared Sledge innocent of the murders in January and he was released from prison.

The new WRAL documentary “An Obvious Suspect” examines the Sledge case, looks at how Sledge is adjusting to life after spending 37 years in prison for a crime he did not commit and shows how the uncovered evidence and DNA testing will be used by investigators to try and solve what is now a nearly 40-year-old cold case.

WRAL News Anchor Gerald Owens hosts “An Obvious Suspect.” The documentary will be shown on WRAL-TV and at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 23. It and other WRAL documentaries are archived and available for on-demand viewing after the initial broadcast.