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Unsolved 1985 murder of TV director leads to arrest of NC auto repair shop worker

Edwin Hiatt being escorted to jail on Burke County, where he is charged with killing Barry Crane in 1985.
Edwin Hiatt being escorted to jail on Burke County, where he is charged with killing Barry Crane in 1985. Video screenshot, WSOC

A 52-year-old man from one of North Carolina’s sparsely populated mountain counties has been tied to the 1985 killing of a Hollywood producer credited with some of the most popular TV shows of the 70s and 80s, according to the Associated Press.

Police accused Edwin Hiatt of killing of Barry Crane, reported Law & Crime. Hiatt was being held on $2 million bond Thursday in North Carolina, and is awaiting extradition to Los Angeles, reports Variety.

Crane, 57 at the time of his death, was “found bludgeoned shortly before 3 P.M. in the garage of his luxury town home in Studio City” on July 5, 1985, according to IMDB. A housekeeper found his “body wrapped in bedding on the garage floor” and it appeared he was both beaten and strangled, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Crane’s career in Hollywood dates back to the late 1960s and included key roles in producing or directing episodes of series such as “Mannix,” “Mission Impossible,” “Wonder Woman,” “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “Hawaii Five-O,” according to IMDB.

Investigators interviewed Hiatt last month after he was linked to the killing by recent DNA tests of old evidence, reports WTVD. He reportedly admitted to killing Crane during the interview, police say, according to the Associated Press.

Hiatt was being held Friday in Burke County jail in Morganton on a charge of being a fugitive from justice, according to jail records. Burke County, with a population of about 88,000 people, sits on the western end of North Carolina, in the Appalachian Mountains.

With the exception of identical twins, each person has a unique DNA profile. This makes DNA matching a powerful tool for finding and convicting the perpetrator of a crime.

WSOC filmed Hiatt as he was being escorted to jail by Burke County sheriff’s deputies, and he told the station: “I just don’t want to remember the past ‘cause God’s taken it from me. Everything that I’m at today is a totally different lifestyle from where I was before.”

When WSOC asked Hiatt if he could have committed the murder, he responded: “It’s possible. Anything is possible.”

He added that he “was big into drugs” during the time of the Crane’s death, WSOC reported.

How the two men crossed paths has not been detailed by investigators. A finger print specialist linked Hiatt to the crime scene, with a print found on Crane’s vehicle, reported the Morganton News Herald.

Before his arrest this week, Hiatt lived quietly in Connelly Springs and was known to be working at 2nd Chance Engine Repair, an auto shop in Burke County, reported the News Herald. Connelly Springs is a Burke County town of about 1,700 people, 65 miles northwest of Charlotte.

The LA Times reports Crane’s Studio City home did not show signs of a “burglary or forced entry” after the crime, but his wallet and Cadillac were taken. The newspaper said LAPD detectives interviewed Hiatt on March 8.

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