New WRAL Documentary Profiles Joseph Sledge, Innocent Man Who Spent Nearly 40 Years in North Carolina Prisons

“An Obvious Suspect” Airs Tuesday, June 23 at 7 p.m.

WRAL DocumentaryJoseph Sledge was convicted of a double murder in Bladen County, NC and spent 37 years in prison. Then, new evidence proved he couldn’t have been the killer. The new WRAL Documentary “An Obvious Suspect” examines the Sledge case and how he is adjusting to life now. The documentary, hosted by WRAL News anchor Gerald Owens, premieres Tuesday, June 23 at 7 p.m.

Josephyne and Ailene Davis were murdered in their home in September of 1976. The obvious suspect at the time was Joseph Sledge, who had escaped from a nearby prison just hours before the murders. A jury convicted Sledge based on the testimony of two jailhouse snitches and expert testimony that hairs found on the victims’ bodies were similar to Sledge’s.

The jury never heard evidence that pointed to a different killer, including bloody fingerprints, palm prints and shoe prints. Investigations by the N.C. Center for Actual Innocence and the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission uncovered that evidence. The surviving jailhouse snitch admitted he lied on the stand and DNA testing proved that the hairs did not belong to Sledge. A three-judge panel declared Sledge innocent of the murders in January and he was released from prison.

WRAL is the only media outlet telling the Joseph Sledge story in documentary form, from an exclusive interview with his original trial attorney, to traveling to Savannah to spend time with Joseph and his family. “An Obvious Suspect” examines the case and looks at how Sledge is adjusting to life after spending 37 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. The WRAL Documentary also shows how investigators will use the uncovered evidence and DNA testing in their effort to solve what is now a nearly 40-year-old cold case.

Statewide Broadcast Schedule

  • WRAL-TV/Raleigh – Tuesday, June 23, 7:00pm
  • WILM-TV/Wilmington – Tuesday, June 23, 7:00pm
  • WRAZ-TV/Durham – Sunday, July 5, 5:00pm

The documentary will also be available for on-demand viewing any time after the premiere television broadcast on June 23. Go to, search WRAL doc.

The conversation about this documentary has already started on twitter: follow @WRALDoc and #JosephSledge.

Thanks to WRAL-TV’s Jay Yovanovich for this capcom story.

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