Originally posted Friday, May 31, 2019 by RODNEY HOfirstname.lastname@example.org on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Julie Smith is leaving CBS46 after her three-year contract is up.
The well-liked Kentucky native joined the station as a lifestyle reporter but became a traffic reporter soon after. Notably in the fall of 2017, she joined hosts Gurvir Dhindsa and Amanda Davis along with meteorologist Jennifer Valdez for what was a rare morning show combo: an all-female, all-minority team.
Last November, news director Steve Doerr gave Smith a hybrid host position for shows such as “Atlanta Plugged In,” “The Honda North Georgia Road Trip” and live events. She continued to do fill-in traffic.
Doerr confirmed her departure and in an email to staff, wished her the best.
“My contract was up and we both decided not to renew,” Smith wrote. “Nothing exciting at all.”
Some crime cases are open-and-shut. Others seem muddled at first but clear up after some investigation.
Then there’s the 1999 case of Ashley and Lauria, missing after a mysterious mobile home fire, leaving Kathy and Danny Freeman burned in a small town in Oklahoma. Their 16-year-old daughter Ashley and best friend Lauria Bible had disappeared.
But the parents were not killed by the fire. They had been shot and the girls appear to have been abducted. The girls were never found. And no suspects were arrested at the time.
In the four-part HLN series debuting Sunday night called “Hell in the Heartland,” author Jax Miller and investigator Sarah Caliean began digging into the two-decade-old case. It became like an onion: there were more and more layers and complications the deeper they dug. There were potential suspects galore and the police department didn’t exactly come out of this smelling like a rose.
“This was still an active case, still pretty hot,” said Miller in an interview Thursday. “I was attracted to it by the setting at first. I stayed for the case. I became emotionally invested.”
And it just became a “stranger-than-fiction story. This makes ‘Making a Murderer’ look like Disney on Ice.”
Caliean, after studying the case for just a few minutes, became riveted. “There were some screamingly obvious missteps taken in the investigation in the early hours and days,” she said. “I had never seen anything like it.”
There was no official arson investigation. There was no immediate hunt for the girls. The investigators at first did not find the second burned boy.
Miller has spent four years on the case and said she simply “wants the girls to be found” - dead or alive.
Both women became attached to Lauria’s mom, who they compared to the character in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri” - with less cursing. She’s steely and “Midwest stoic,”but “secretly warm,” Caliean said.
Miller said her book on the case will be out next year.
“Hell in the Heartland,” debuts Sunday, June 2, 2019, 9 p.m., HLN
Fox recently canceled Atlanta music drama “Star” after three seasons. Ratings started strong but weakened enough for Fox to move on.
Creator Lee Daniels shopped the show elsewhere but couldn’t find anyone else to take it, according to Deadline.com.
Among the networks that passed: BET, OWN and Amazon.
Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier described the cancellation as a “tough choice.” Ratings had fallen its third season but that is hardly unusual in this day and age.
Cynthia Bailey of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” is promoting her new signature flavor, Peach Bellini, in collaboration with Seagrams’s Escapes, this Friday and Saturday at four locations.
Cynthia will meet with fans, take pictures and sign autographs.
On Friday, May 31, Cynthia will be at a Murphy’s USA convenience store at 4400 Lexington Road in Athens from 4 to 5 p.m.
On Saturday, she will be at Publix at 2675 Lee Road in Lithia Springs from 11 to noon, a Publix on 3730 Carmia Drive SW in Atlanta from 2 to 3 p.m., then Publix at 5370 Campbellton Fairburn Road in Fairburn from 5 to 6 p.m.
As featured on “Real Housewives,” Bailey launched her new signature flavor, Peach Bellini and it’s not available in stores nationwide.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.