BURKE COUNTY, N.C. — Officials said a Burke County man accused in a Hollywood murder mystery that has been unsolved for 34 years has been holding Bible studies in jail as he awaits his fate.
Channel 9's Dave Faherty has followed the case for months and was inside the courtroom Friday when Ed Hiatt smiled and gestured toward friends who showed up for his extradition hearing.
Hiatt is charged in the death of well-known television director and producer Barry Crane.
Federal agents said the 1985 murder of Crane in Los Angeles sat cold for decades, but new evidence led them across the country to Hiatt.
Officials told Faherty they "haven't heard a single peep" about Hiatt returning to California to face a judge in connection with Crane's death.
Friends said Hiatt is a different man now and they hope he doesn't go back to California.
“He tries to act the part, show the part. It’s very important to him. He’s gotten me to go to different Bible studies with him. I’ve gone to church with him,” his friend Sonny Ward said.
Faherty learned Hiatt has been holding Bible studies at the jail in Morganton, hoping to get out.
“He’s trying to sit there and talk to some of the other prisoners. He’s having Bible studies. He joked with me that I need to get arrested and go in and join him,” Ward said.
Crane had a hand in some of television’s most iconic shows, including “The Six Million Dollar Man,” "Mission: Impossible," "Wonder Woman," "Dallas," “Chips” and “The Streets of San Francisco.”
He was was also a world champion bridge player.
Hiatt was arrested at a repair shop where he worked in the town of Rutherford College. Friends said he lived in a camper there.
Marvin and Dee Hall said they worked with Hiatt at the repair shop.
“The person they’re describing I don’t know. We know the man that God has changed his life and would give you the shirt off his back,” Dee Hall said.
“I’m hoping they let him go, because he’s not the man he used to be,” Marvin Hall said.
The FBI staked out Hiatt and collected his discarded cigarettes and a foam cup to get DNA.
Hiatt was 18 years old when Crane was beaten with a ceramic statue and choked to death with a telephone cord inside his Studio City home in Los Angeles.
Crane’s body was found wrapped naked in some sheets in his garage in July 1985.
Nothing was missing from the condo except Crane's wallet and Cadillac.
LAPD detectives ran prints on the car last year for the fourth time and one of the prints belonged to Hiatt, according to warrants.
The FBI and LAPD linked Hiatt to the crime through the DNA they gathered.
Hiatt was taken into custody by the FBI and North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.
In a press release in May, the LAPD said Hiatt confessed to the crime in an interview with detectives on March 8.
Channel 9 caught up with Hiatt last month as he was being escorted to jail by police.
“Did you ever think they would catch up with you?” Faherty asked Hiatt.
“I didn’t have any clue what was going on when they first met me,” Hiatt said.
“You had no idea?” Faherty asked.
“No,” Hiatt replied.
“This is a shock to you?” Faherty asked.
“It’s a different life today,” Hiatt said.
“Do you not remember what happened in 1985?” Faherty asked.
“I don’t have a really good memory,” Hiatt said.
“Could you have done this murder in 1985?” Faherty asked.
“Anything is possible back then because I was big into drugs,” Hiatt admitted.
The FBI tracked Hiatt through social media to North Carolina where he was working at the auto repair business in Burke County.
“Do you remember Barry Crane?” Faherty asked.
“I don’t remember the guy until they told me his name, and then I didn’t remember his picture,” Hiatt said.
It's still unclear what the possible motive for the killing was.
At his first court appearance, Hiatt said he wanted to speak with an attorney before making any decisions about his extradition to California.
Before being taken back to jail, Hiatt had one more message for his friends.
“The lawyer needs my medicine. I haven’t had it,” he said.
Friends said Hiatt is on six different kinds of medications.
His attorney told Channel 9 they are not waiving extradition at this point and may try to get him bonded out of jail next month.
If prosecutors don’t do anything by early August, Hiatt will be released from jail.
Cox Media Group