- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The case of a 24-year-old black woman from South Carolina, who was missing for more than a year until her body was found last week, has sparked criticism about a disparity in press coverage of missing whites and blacks.

Christopher Hampton, 25, of Spartanburg, was charged with first-degree murder after telling a reporter for the Spartanburg Herald-Journal newspaper that he killed Tamika A. Huston in May last year when he threw a hot iron at her during an argument over money.

Family members say they last saw Miss Huston alive in late May 2004 and reported her missing on June 14. They created a Web site about her disappearance, offering a reward and urging people to contact cable TV networks and demand coverage of the case.

The victim’s aunt, Rebkah Howard, a public-relations consultant and lawyer in Miami, said she began calling “every network” asking them to address her niece’s disappearance.

“We got nowhere,” she said yesterday.

She said family members noticed that although news organizations ignored Miss Huston’s case, they provided hours of coverage of missing white women such as Laci Peterson in California and, more recently, Natalee Holloway, an Alabama teen who disappeared in Aruba.

“Based on the soap opera coverage that is provided, you would think there is an epidemic of young beautiful white women out there” who are being abducted, Mrs. Howard said. “But that is not the typical pattern in missing persons cases.”

According to the FBI, of the nearly 47,600 missing U.S. adults being sought as of May 1, 53 percent are men and 29 percent are black.

“It was a year into the investigation when we got significant coverage,” she said. “By then, Tamika was being written about as a symbol of the [racial] inequity in news coverage about missing persons.”

The Fox network’s crime show “America’s Most Wanted” twice broadcast reports on Miss Huston.

Mrs. Howard said Fox News Channel’s Greta Van Susteren allotted “five seconds” to broadcast a photograph and basic information about the missing woman. However, Fox spokesman Paul Schur said Miss Van Susteren’s report on Miss Huston last August was the first coverage of the case by a national news organization.

Mrs. Howard said she appeared with Nancy Grace on CNN Monday night to discuss developments in her niece’s case. This was her second appearance with the host, she said.

Mrs. Howard said she was on CNN for “20 minutes. Of course, that was after the 40 minutes allotted for Aruba on the same broadcast.”

Members of Miss Huston’s family said she had known Hampton no more than two months.

“None of the family members knew him,” Mrs. Howard said.

In his jailhouse interview, Hampton told the newspaper — and later police — that he buried her in the woods, and late last week, he led authorities to her makeshift grave.

Blood determined to be Miss Huston’s had been found in an apartment where Hampton formerly lived. Hampton was in prison for a probation violation at the time of his confession.

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