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Thriller Thursday: Cold Cases Solved

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.

Alie Berrelez

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?

20 comments on… “Thriller Thursday: Cold Cases Solved”

  1. WOW, Stacy…just thinking about these cases that happened decades ago and now finding the truth…and to think of the thousands more! Each one I try, but fail, to understand the frame of mind a person is in to commit such awful crimes. And that cop who buried the gun! I cant imagine the suffering for years of the families left behind. I so look forward to your Thriller Thursdays and learning of these cases. Makes me want to keep my son even closer – and go watch The Safe Side video again with him! I highly recommend it, produced by John Walsh and Julie Clark.
    it talks to kids in a different way other than the “strange danger” but gives them, and families, a plan of action for every day and in certain situations

    • I know! Cold cases – especially the ones that are decades old – are some of the most interesting to me. It’s amazing how technology has solved crimes decades old. I’m so glad you enjoy Thriller Thursdays, and I have seen The Safe Side. This is something we’re really driving home with Grace, especially in the summer.


  2. I am going to miss your Thriller Thursdays….but I assume they are coming back in 2012??? Love them!
    Great post – loved that you focused on cold cases that were solved. Amazing how advances in technology today can solve cases that old.
    The last case truly puzzles me. As I was reading it, I thought it sounded fishy – like the original investigator was part of a cover up and then…the next investigator does the same thing?!?! Maybe there was an officer involved in some way, shape or form?!?! Doesn’t make sense!
    I feel for families with open cases unsolved…and even those that do get solved….closure and unanswered questions can be a hard thing to come to terms with.

    • Oh yes, coming back in 2012. I’m just taking next week off, lol. I should make that more clear. Thanks. I was looking for something slightly less depressing for this week’s post. At least these cases were closed. Yes, that last case is very strange. Bocock’s police report reads like driving directions rather than a report. It’s very strange.

      Thanks for commenting:)

  3. The pain of losing a loved one just increases with that feeling of not knowing/not understanding what happened. Thank goodness that we are continuing to make advances in our ability to connect the dots and hold criminals responsible. Unfortunately, in some of these cases, we are too late to apply justice through our courts. But at least the families have some sense of closure. Thanks for highlighting these cases, Stacy.

    • Yes, it does. I’m sure the families are grateful for the official closure, but it would be really hard to feel justice was served when the murdered lived out their life as a free person. You’re very welcome. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Coming into the Row80 circle late and found you on Twitter. This is a great idea. I love it when the truth is found. Great post and thanks for sharing.

  5. I agree with the others that seeing some solved cold cases is great, Stacy. And what rough cases they are. Can we dig up the Nick guy and torture him? And the last case was outright criminal. Why would Bocock do that? Sadly I think others in the department had to know something was up for them to stand down all those years until he died. Criminal.

    • Thanks, Barbara. Yes, all very rough cases. The last one really puzzles me. There are definitely more factors than will likely be known, and I agree about the department. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. It’s amazing that more modern technology can solve these old cases. Then the families can finally have some closure. I just can’t believe the criminals live their whole lives with their crime and never crack. How can they do that?

    • That’s the most fascinating thing to me. Technology has come so far, especially the use of DNA. It’s closed so many cases and free innocent people. I don’t know. I think some people have no conscious, and others just live in some sort of denial.


  7. Okay. I had heard of the first two, but that last one was awesome. So the police guy (Bocock) covered it up? Amazing. And the killer just shot the women on impulse? Even better. I wonder how many other people she killed. Thanks so much for sharing. I enjoyed this immensely.

    • I hadn’t heard of any of them, actually. Came across in my research. Yes, the last one is definitely interesting and reeks of cover up. There’s just got to be more to Bocock’s motivation than we know. You’re welcome, thanks for commenting:)

  8. I think cold cases are fascinating, and hadn’t heard of any of these. The last one especially was fascinating to me – the cover-up and the poor guy who served to shift the focus from the real killer just because he was mentally ill. Nice to know that even if it takes years, justice can be served. Happy holidays Stacy!

  9. I wasn’t familiar with any of these solved cold cases. I’m with Hawley and think cold cases are fascinating. I love to watch Cold Case Files and miss the fictionalized TV show, Cold Case. I think that police don’t necessarily cover things up, but they do seem to get set in their ways when they have a suspect, that they don’t investigate other possibilities. I have good friends who are cops, specifically detectives, and I fear that they sometimes take the easy way out – and the victims and their families pay the price.

    My first novel is based on a cold case….or inspired by, actually….

    • First off, your book already piques my interest. Cold cases are fascinating, as you said, and I do wonder the same thing about cops getting set in their ways. It’s human nature, and it would be hard to remain unbaised if you’ve got a suspect you just don’t like or whatever. I definitely couldn’t do it.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  11. shannon mccalip

    The Diane Maxwell Jackson murder was my mother. I basically found out from the internet and from a tru tv episode, about it. In all the articles they credit David Maxwell as they should and he always says he was thinking of his parents. I’m glad the man was caught sad that I got the info online

    • Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry about the way you found out. Why weren’t you informed properly? I’m glad David did right by his sister and that your mother’s murder was eventually solved. So sorry for your loss, and thank you for commenting.

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