KyCIR, WFPL Win National Murrow Award in Investigative Reporting

The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and WFPL on Tuesday won a national Murrow Award for a 2013 story about a serial criminal who murdered a 17-year-old Clarksville girl.

The radio story was reported by the KyCIR’s R.G. Dunlop, with production assistance from WFPL’s Laura Ellis.

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In the story, Dunlop wrote:

On March 2, with a months-old warrant out for his arrest and a court hearing a week away, the six-time felon talked his way into a neighbor’s apartment in Clarksville. And just as he had done three times before, Hooten brutally raped a young female acquaintance.

This crime, however, was more brutal than the rest. This time, Hooten strangled his victim, 17-year-old Tara Rose Willenborg, to death.

Willenborg’s parents believe her death was preventable, had the justice system been paying attention. They are not the only ones. One criminal justice expert called the handling of the three Indiana cases the most egregious examples of missed opportunities he’d ever seen. “It’s the worst I’ve ever heard of. It really is,” said Tom Barker, a professor in the School of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University. “They just ignored a known, serious risk to public safety. You talk about a murder being inevitable and predictable.”

Hooten pleaded guilty in April.

The Murrow Awards are presented by the Radio Television Digital News Association. Ninety-eight Murrow Award winners were chosen from more than 4,000 entries, according to the RTDNA.

You can find the complete list of 2014 Murrow Award recipients here.

“It is a great honor for our new newsroom,” said Brendan McCarthy, managing editor of the KyCIR and interim news director for WFPL. “The award highlights one of our earliest investigative projects and it underscores the high-caliber, quality journalism we are producing.”

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