“20/20” to Report on Julie Rea After 2002 Report Led to Viewer Cracking Her Case

ABC’s 20/20 is set to report on Julie Rea, who was convicted in her son’s murder until a 20/20 viewer helped crack the case.

  • When a scream woke Julie Rea in the middle of the night, she realized her 10-year-old son Joel was missing from his bed. She encountered an intruder and struggled with him as he ran out of the house. When authorities arrived, she faced the unthinkable – Joel was dead and authorities began to focus on her, poking holes in her story about the home invasion.
  • Rea ended up behind bars, convicted of Joel’s murder. When crime author Diane Fanning watched a 2002 20/20 report on Rea, she soon uncovered information that cracked the case wide open and linked notorious serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells to Joel’s murder.
  • A two-hour 20/20 reports on the case, the events of the tragic night, Rea’s wrongful conviction, and Sells’ startling confession about the crime.
  • The program includes the first interview with Fabienne Witherspoon, a rare survivor attacked by Sells; and interviews with Ron Safer, the attorney who spearheaded Rea’s defense and ultimately her exoneration; and two of Rea’s closest friends, Rick Mitchell, who stood by her innocence from day one, and Dawn Hanzel, who was supposed to spend the night at Rea’s home the night of the murder.
  • 20/20 also includes interviews with Rea from the ABC News archives.
  • 20/20 airs Friday, Nov. 12 (9:01-11:00 p.m. EST), on ABC.

About 20/20:

  • ABC News’ 20/20 is an award-winning primetime program anchored by David Muir and Amy Robach.
  • A proven leader as a long-form newsmagazine for over 40 years, 20/20 features unforgettable, character-driven true-crime mysteries, exclusive newsmaker interviews, hard-hitting investigative reports and in-depth coverage of high profile stories.
  • The two-hour 20/20 events air Fridays from 9:01–11:00 p.m. EDT on ABC and are available to stream on ABC News digital platforms and Hulu.
  • David Sloan is senior executive producer, and Janice Johnston is executive producer.