Due to this post from Roni Loren (thank you for the warning, Roni) I’ve decided to remove most photos from Thriller Thursday. I hope you’re still able to enjoy them!
Today is the final Thriller Thursday post of 2011, and we’re doing something different. Thousands of unsolved murders have been shelved in the cold case file for years, if not decades. Thanks to tenacious investigators and loyal family members, a handful of cold cases are solved every year, but closing the case doesn’t always provide the families with closure.
Diane Maxwell Jackson
On December 14, 1969, young single mother Diane Maxwell Jackson was murdered in the company lot at Southwestern Bell in Houston, Texas. After parking her car, she was forced into a nearby shack and raped, strangled, and stabbed to death. Houston police investigated, but no suspects were identified. Latent prints taken from the crime scene were filed, and the case went cold.
A latent print is an impression (usually invisible to the naked eye) produced by the ridged skin on human fingers, palms or soles of the feet. In 1969, the ability to identify latent prints were limited. Now, several techniques such as chemicals, powders, lasers, and alternate light sources are used to identify the prints.
In 2003, driven by the determination of the Diane’s brother, her case was reopened and ultimately solved thanks to advanced technology and the identification of the latent print. David Maxwell, Diane’s brother, joined the Texas State Highway Patrol and later the Texas Rangers. In 1989, he started reviewing his sister’s file. The prints were studied once more, but no progress was made. In 2003, a latent print technician at the Texas Department of Public Safety tried again, and a suspect finally emerged: James Ray Davis.
Investigators knew they needed a confession, and using the fingerprint evidence as well as crime scene photographs, they got it. On November 24, 2003, James Ray Davis was sentenced to life for the rape and murder of Diane Maxwell Jackson.
Every parent’s nightmare: five-year-old Alie Berrelez was kidnapped from the parking lot of her apartment building (where she was with other children) in Englewood, Colorado, on May 18, 2003. Her body was found four days later in a canvas back fourteen miles from her home.
In September, Englewood police were able to confirm what they had always suspected: the DNA of neigbor Nick Stofer, was found on the girl’s underwear. Stofer died in 2001 a free man, but Alie’s family was finally given closure.
“It’s been a long 18 years. But Alie’s not a victim, I don’t want people to think of her as a victim. She’s a hero, and she’s been a hero for the past 18 years.” —Richard Berrelez, grandfather of Alie Berrelez.
Stofer had always been the prime suspect but lack of evidence prevented police from pursuing a case against him. Alie’s younger brother talked about a man matching Stofer’s description talking with her, but his testimony was circumstantial. Blood and hair samples were taken from Stofer and filed away.
Advancements in DNA technology finally allowed detectives to close the case, but the ending is bittersweet for the family. With Stofer’s death, the how and more importantly, the why, of little Alie’s murder will never be answered.
Connie Hevener and Carolyn Perry
On April 11, 1967, Carolyn Hevener, 19, and her sister-in-law, Carolyn Perry, 20, were shot in the head with a .25 caliber handgun while closing up at High’s Ice Cream in Staunton, Virginia.
$140 (about $900 in today’s money) was missing. Police assumed the girls were caught up in a robbery and focused on Gus Thomas, 24. Unemployed and seedy-looking, Thomas lived near the store and was called “crazy” by some witnesses. He was indicted for the murder of Hevener but found not guilty due to lack of evidence. Prosecutors chose not to indict for the murder of Perry in the hopes better evidence would eventually surface.
Many in the small town felt the investigation was strange, and the original report on the crimes lacked the confidence of a professional investigator. It wasn’t until 2006, when original investigating officer Davie Bocock died, that things started moving forward in the double murder case again.
Joyce Bradshaw, now an elderly woman, admitted that ten days before the murders, another employee of High’s, Diane Crawford, showed her a .25 caliber pistol. She told Bradshow she had a bullet “reserved” for victim Connie Hevener. She then told investigators she’d given this information to Bocock the day after the murders, and that the police sergeant responded that Crawford was a “crack shot.” Bradshaw took the words as a warning.
Roy Hartless, an ex-Staunton police officer and private investigator, tracked the now sixty-year-old Diane Crawford down at a nursing home in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Crawford was dying of heart and kidney disease.
Hartless discovered his suspect spent time in a mental health facility after the murders before moving to Durham, North Carolina. She eventually moved back to Virginia and had a long-term relationship with another woman. After several conversations, Crawford finally admitted she went to the store that night and told Hevener should couldn’t work the next night.
“She got upset and started saying things, and one thing led to another. I was just pushed so far, so I shot them and that was it.”
Crawford claimed she was angry with Hevener and Perry for teasing her about being a lesbian. She said the murders weren’t premeditated but had no reason for taking the gun to the store that night.
The final twist? Crawford gave the murder weapon to sergeant Davie Bocock, who buried it on his property.
Crawford died before she could be prosecuted and never fully explained Bocock’s coverup, saying only they were friendly. Authorities have yet to recover the gun on Bocock’s former land. No one will ever know his reasons, and the families of Hevener and Perry will always have unanswered questions.
Do you think Bocock really buried the gun? Was the Staunton police department involved in the coverup? And as a parent, how do you reconcile the murderer of your child died a free man, as in little Alie’s case?