DENVER (CN) — A Colorado man claims the so-called true crime TV show “Crime Watch Daily” misrepresented and made up details about his girlfriend’s murder, insinuating in two episodes that he killed her while they were on vacation in Mexico.
Erin Johnson, 21, was killed in 2001 in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, a tourist resort at the tip of Baja California Sur.
Erron Cross accompanied her on vacation there in April 2001. According to the FBI website on Johnson’s murder, which is unsolved, Johnson boarded a bus after she and Cross got into an argument one evening, and she never returned to their hotel. Cross reported her missing the next morning. She was found strangled to death on the beach.
Cross sued Telepictures Production and Warner Bros. Worldwide Distribution in Eagle County Court, claiming they defamed him in two episodes of “Crime Watch Daily,” broadcast in May 2016 and February this year, which “insinuated that plaintiff murdered Johnson,” and reported, incorrectly, that he had not gone to the police when she went missing.
The dates of the broadcasts are important, as in defamation cases courts generally give publishers more leeway in reporting “hot news” — the day of the event, when details may not be available — as opposed to reports published long after the event is no longer hot news.
“Plaintiff had reported Johnson missing to the police in the early afternoon on April 29, 2001 in San Jose del Cabo and again on April 30, 2017 in Cabo San Lucas,” the complaint states. “Defendants did not report in either Episode 120 or 185 that plaintiff had ‘gone to the police’ twice.”
The TV show also reported that Cross was arrested at an airport as he was attempting to flee Mexico, though he was in police custody before Johnson’s body was found, he says.
“Crime Watch Daily” reported that Cross left a bus with Johnson after their fight, but the bus driver told the police that Johnson left the bus with “a Hispanic man,” according to the complaint.
Finally, Cross claims the show falsely reported that there is evidence that could prove him guilty.
“Defendants’ program, ‘Crimewatch Daily,’ Episode 120, aired February 24, 2017, reported that a beer can and cigarette butt were evidence in the murder of Johnson and insinuated that such evidence points to the guilt of plaintiff, but defendants failed to report in Episode 120 that plaintiff provided fingerprints, hair, teeth impressions, and DNA to the Mexican police,” the complaint states.
He seeks damages for defamation, pain and suffering, and lost income.
His attorney Inga Causey with Causey and Howard in Edwards, Colorado, declined to comment.
Telepictures Production did not respond to a request for comment.