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Local love-triangle murder featured on 'Dateline'

Dateline NBC devotes one hour Friday to the story of how a teenage Rachel Wade stabbed Pinellas Park High School senior Sarah Ludemann to death in 2009, fighting over a common boyfriend, Josh Camacho.

And Dateline correspondent Dennis Murphy credits St. Petersburg Times reporter Lane DeGregory for helping him navigate the story's big themes, including how taunts and insults on voice mails and MySpace led to a streetside fight where two girls from the same Pinellas Park neighborhood met and only one walked away.

DeGregory, a 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner, wrote about Wade and Ludemann's conflict for the newspaper last year. Murphy interviewed her in the Times newsroom for segments, which appear in the first half of Friday's story, describing how both girls fell hard for Jose Camacho, a boy some accused of pitting the two young women against each other.

Besides the Times' coverage, the Wade/Ludemann case inspired a story on ABC's 20/20 and CNN's In Session last year. So why take another look at the case now?

"I guess this is a cautionary tale for parents," said Murphy, who could not get Camacho or Ludemann's family to sit for interviews. "The technology is out there for them to say things to each other they wouldn't have said passing each other in the halls at school."

Friday's story does feature interviews with DeGregory, local prosecutors and police, along with Wade's family, attorney, friends and the convicted killer herself, now appealing a 27-year sentence for the murder of her romantic rival.

"I don't see myself as (a murderer)," said a tearful Wade, who also blamed communications technology for helping the conflict get out of hand. "I used it as a defense — like I could scare (Ludemann) away."

The story also continues a TV newsmagazine tradition of picking up stories first unearthed in local newspapers and turning them into stories for a national audience. (hopefully, they won't repeat the mistake made in an early press release, which said the murder happened in Tampa).

"Well, it's not a twice-told story for our audience; we're telling this for a national viewership who might not even know where St. Petersburg is," Murphy said. "For many years, the food chain has run from print to TV; look at your morning New York Times and you will see that illustrated on the evening TV newscasts. And (DeGregory) was a pretty good translator for us."


The show is 9 p.m. Friday on WFLA-Ch. 8.

Local love-triangle murder featured on 'Dateline' 02/24/11 [Last modified: Thursday, February 24, 2011 2:58pm]
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