11-29-2004, 12:13 PM #1Registered User
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NC - Neely Smith, age 5, murdered 1981, - Suspect: Fred Howard Coffey Jr.
Posted on Sun, Oct. 17, 2004
From the Charlotte Observer
Who murdered Neely Smith? Girl's 1981 slaying gripped city with fear; now, the search for her killer resumes
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police are going through boxes from the 1981 slaying of a 5-year-old girl hoping old evidence, tested with new technology, might lead to her killer.
The department's cold-case homicide squad assigned a detective to Neely Smith's case last month after the Observer contacted police about what was one of the most publicized criminal cases in Charlotte's history.
Neely, a talkative brown-haired girl, was snatched from her east Charlotte neighborhood Feb. 18, 1981. After a two-month search, her skull, rib cage, lower jaw and hair were found 15 miles from where she lived. No one has ever been charged.
Police believe she was strangled. And they think they may know who did it.
That suspect is in prison -- but eligible for parole consideration -- in the murder of a little girl who lived in the same neighborhood as Neely.
2 killings, 1 suspect
Nineteen months before Neely was kidnapped, a 10-year-old Chantilly Elementary School student disappeared from her Eastcrest Drive home. Amanda Ray's mother told her not to go fishing with the gray-haired stranger, but the fourth-grader apparently went anyway.When her mother got home from work on July 18, 1979, she couldn't find Amanda. The next day, a family picking blackberries 19 miles away found the girl's beaten body beside a private lake near Huntersville. Autopsy results showed Amanda had been strangled or smothered.
Seven-and-a-half years later -- six years after Neely's death -- police charged Fred Coffey with murder in Amanda's killing. They linked hair and carpet fibers found on her body to Coffey's dog and his van.
At the 1987 trial, prosecutors said Coffey lured Amanda away from home with the promise of a fishing trip, then killed her when she resisted his sexual advances and threatened to tell.
Coffey, now 59, was twice sent to death row for the murder but finally won a life sentence on appeal. He is serving his sentence at Albemarle Correctional Institute.
The similarities between the deaths of Amanda and Neely are striking.
The girls lived about a block apart and disappeared within about 1 1/2 years.
They were found dead in rural areas, both near water.
Each was young and police believe sexual assault was a motive in the killings.
Amanda was strangled or smothered; police believe Neely was too.
Most telling to investigators, though, is that at the time of the killings, Fred Coffey lived in the same apartment complex as Neely.
Searching for Neely
Neely lived in the Williamsburg Apartments off Commonwealth Avenue with her mother, two brothers and stepdad. They had moved from Gaston County a few months before and her mother knew nothing about Amanda's death.
Police have determined that Neely knocked on a neighbor's door about 5 p.m. to ask a friend to play. That is the last time detectives can account for her whereabouts.
Her family started searching for her about 6 p.m. and called police just after 7 p.m. Investigators, immediately seeing parallels between Neely and Amanda, started a massive search.
They looked in empty apartments, garbage containers and washing machines, scoured wooded areas and walked along Briar Creek.
Police set up a command post in a vacant apartment, brought in Army reservists to help, and collected anything that might be evidence. They found nothing.
During those first few weeks, parents across Charlotte worried for their own children. Many kids weren't allowed to play outside and those who did were carefully supervised.
Parents waited with their children at bus stops. Teachers reminded students to beware of strangers.
Then, during an April 11 license check near the Union County line, a driver told a police officer about what looked like a human skull lying in a nearby driveway.
The officer found the skull about 20 feet from the road and called in dogs to search for more remains. The dogs led police to Neely's blue tennis shoes, her blue and white long-sleeved blouse, her blue knee socks, her underwear and other scattered bones.
Searchers found about 25 percent of Neely's remains. Medical examiners couldn't tell for sure how she died, but believe someone asphyxiated the 43-pound, 3 1/2-foot tall girl.
A solvable case
While Neely was missing, police questioned Fred Coffey, an eighth-grade dropout who'd worked as a fire department dispatcher and pest exterminator. He let authorities search his apartment, where they found nothing incriminating.Neely's mother, Kim Griffin, said she questioned Coffey before the apartment search, and he denied knowing anything about Neely's whereabouts.
It wasn't until 1986 -- when Coffey surfaced as a suspect in the death of an 8-year-old boy in Virginia -- that police in Charlotte again began to look at him in Neely's killing.
He was never charged with killing the Virginia boy -- or Neely. But police Sgt. Tom Athey, who supervises the cold case squad, said: "We'd be remiss not to consider him the prime suspect."
The Observer attempted to contact Coffey for this story. Asked Friday if he would consent to an interview, Coffey told a prison official he would not.
Athey said Neely's case is solvable.
"It's one of those cases where we have a truly innocent victim and a really bad suspect," said Detective Dave Phillips, the investigator working Neely's case. "It's the kind that really bothers me."
Phillips, a father to three girls and grandfather to one, didn't know about Neely Smith until recently when he spent an entire week reading hundreds of pages of reports and handwritten notes that had been sitting untouched in a file room for years. He hasn't done much besides study the case so far, but expects to begin spending a lot more time on it this week.
Phillips wouldn't talk specifically about the evidence in Neely's case or what he plans to do as he investigates it, but with today's technology, police can learn a lot more from fibers, hair, blood and other evidence than they could in the 1980s.
"Everything has become more valuable to us," he said. "We are going through stuff that back then may not have been beneficial but could really be now."
Phillips said police still have evidence collected in Amanda's case and could possibly use it to help identify Neely's killer.
Dr. John Butts, the state's chief medical examiner, said scientists used to type blood to determine if a suspect had the same type. Now, he said, blood, semen and other DNA evidence can be analyzed and tell police with certainty if it belongs to a particular person.
If properly collected and stored, he said, that type of evidence can be analyzed many years later.
But, he said, decomposition can damage DNA and hinder its analysis. Neely's remains and her clothes were outdoors for nearly two months. Police won't say how that affected the evidence.
Athey said most of the detectives who worked Neely's case in the beginning are retired; some are dead.
Neely disappeared from the city and her remains were found in the county at a time when Mecklenburg had two separate police departments. The Mecklenburg County Police Department, which had significantly fewer resources than city police, took over the investigation once Neely's remains were found. Years later, in 1993, that department merged with the Charlotte department to create Charlotte-Mecklenburg police.
Detectives today believe the case got lost in the shuffle.
"This is the type of case that the cold case squad ought to be working on," Athey said. "This small innocent child has been murdered and I don't see why you'd ever stop working it."
Phillips said solving Neely's case has never been more important. Amanda's murder happened before life in prison really meant life in prison.
Coffey has come up for parole 10 times -- and will again every year until he dies or is released.
Eluded death sentence twice
Two days before he was charged with killing Amanda, Coffey pleaded guilty to nine counts of taking indecent liberties with children in Caldwell County. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
During Coffey's 1987 trial in Amanda's slaying, a psychologist testified that Coffey admitted having sexual contact with about 100 children. A friend of Coffey's wife told the jury she called police two months before Amanda's death after her 3-year-old described Coffey masturbating in front of her.
The jury sent Coffey to death row, but the sentence was overturned because of faulty wording on a verdict sheet. Another jury sentenced him to death in 1991, but he again won a new hearing from the state Supreme Court.
In his third sentencing hearing, the jury deadlocked 10-2 in favor of execution. Because jurors couldn't come to a unanimous decision, the judge was forced to impose a sentence of life in prison.
That sentence ran consecutively with the 50-year sentence, of which he had to serve one-eighth.
Melita Groomes, executive director of the state's Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission, said Coffey has been eligible for parole since August 1995. He's reviewed for parole annually -- and has been rejected each time.
Regardless of detectives' suspicions, Groomes said, nothing in the law requires the parole commission to keep Coffey in prison.
Unless, she said, he is convicted of another crime.
Last edited by Kimster; 04-08-2012 at 11:27 PM. Reason: featured cold case from 4/8/12 to 4/15/12
12-21-2004, 10:18 PM #2Registered User
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- Sep 2004
Fred Coffey's lawyer gets an award...
Fred is only mentioned briefly in passing in this article, probably because to go very far into his case would not be "good press". It is one thing to set an innocent man free, but quite another to get a serial child killer off death row and up for parole every year. This article might lead a person to believe that poor old Fred was one of those innocent lambs in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Jim Cooney Wins N.C. Bar Association's William L. Thorp Pro Bono Award
In recognition of his work on behalf of convicted murderer Alan Gell, Womble Carlyle attorney Jim Cooney will receive the North Carolina Bar Association's 2004 William L. Thorp Pro Bono Award -- the Bar Association's highest honor for an individual who has provided exemplary legal services to a person of limited means.
Cooney was co-counsel in the appeal of Alan Gell, a North Carolina death row inmate convicted in 1995 of murdering Allen Ray Jenkins. While maintaining his private practice with Womble Carlyle's Business Litigation Practice Group, Cooney logged more than 1,000 pro bono hours and spent three years working to free Gell, whom Cooney believed was wrongly convicted of the murder. During February 2004, the work of Cooney and his team of lawyers paid off when Gell became the 113th death row inmate in the United States to be exonerated under the modern death penalty system, and the 5th North Carolina death row inmate to be released since 1990.
"This award is designed to recognize an attorney who has dedicated himself to increasing access to legal services on the part of low-income citizens in North Carolina," said Tom Berkau, N.C. Bar's Public Service Advisory Committee chairman. "Jim Cooney's devout dedication to individuals such as Alan Gell makes him the best candidate for this year's award. We are honored to have someone like him receive this high award."
During 2001, Cooney joined Mary Pollard, then an associate with Womble Carlyle, in defending Gell. The team began to review the evidence against Gell and found that he had been convicted and sentenced to die based on the uncorroborated testimony of two teenage girls, both of whom had entered into extensive plea bargains with the state. During the course of the investigation and trial, the girls had given more than 15 different statements, all of which contradicted each other.
In addition, the attorneys found that the only date that Gell could have killed Jenkins was April 3, 1995 because all other times between April 3 and April 14 -- the day Jenkins body was discovered -- Gell was in jail. In the attorney general's files were 17 statements from witnesses who told police that they had seen Jenkins alive after April 3, and at that time Gell was in jail. Based on these facts, Cooney and his defense team secured a retrial and added Joe Cheshire from Cheshire, Parker, Schneider, Bryan & Vitale of Raleigh to the defense team. The case of State v. Gell was retried in February 2004. After two weeks of trial a jury took little time to find Alan Gell not guilty. Gell walked out of the courtroom a free man, having spent a total of more than nine years in prison, six of which were on death row for a crime that he did not commit.
While Gell's acquittal is a legal milestone that has drawn significant national and local media attention, it is only the latest of many similar pro bono successes that Cooney has had throughout his career. He also represented Allen Gaines in 1993 in the first-degree murder trial of a Charlotte police officer. Gaines was convicted but Cooney convinced the jury to sentence Gaines to life in prison instead of death. In 1994 Cooney secured the reversal of a death sentence given to Fred Coffey--Coffey was later sentenced to life in prison as a result of this reversal. Cooney also recently handled the appeal of a North Carolina man convicted of double murders. Cooney convinced the Fourth Circuit to overturn a federal death penalty sentence because of errors made by the judge during the sentencing phase. This was the first reversal of a federal death penalty case in the country.
"Jim Cooney has made many extraordinary efforts to provide pro bono legal services to those who need them," said Keith Vaughan, Womble Carlyle managing member. "Jim's ability to be completely devoted to his underprivileged pro bono clients while successfully maintaining his business litigation practice at Womble Carlyle is proof that he is a person of the utmost integrity, loyalty and honor. We are very proud to have him as one of our attorneys at Womble Carlyle."
In his business litigation practice at Womble Carlyle, Cooney focuses in the areas of medical malpractice defense, criminal defense, commercial litigation, appellate practice and catastrophic torts. Cooney was admitted to the North Carolina bar in 1984. He is admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern, Middle and Western Districts of North Carolina, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court and all North Carolina State courts. He is also a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers.
Cooney will receive the N.C. Bar Association's 2004 William L. Thorp Pro Bono Award at the organization's 106th Annual Meeting on June 18th at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C.
A full-service business law firm, Womble Carlyle ranks among AmLaw's 100 leading firms in the country and is considered a top firm for companies doing business in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states. The firm is the 2003 recipient of the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund Corporate Leadership Award, making Womble Carlyle the first law firm ever to receive the highest honor given to a company in recognition of its support of the Fund and its 45 member institutions.
Founded in Winston-Salem, NC in 1876, Womble Carlyle operates in four states and the District of Columbia with 500 attorneys in nine offices located in Atlanta, GA; Greenville, S.C.; Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, Research Triangle Park, and Winston-Salem, N.C.; Washington, D.C.; and Tysons Corner, VA.
Link to WCSR News & Events:
12-21-2004, 11:37 PM #3
This makes me furious. I will never understand how someone who is convicted of murder and sentenced to DEATH - TWICE.... wins a life sentence on appeal AND IS NOW UP FOR PAROLE??? HUH??? It makes me so angry that the system lets the people back out into the community to KILL AGAIN!
12-22-2004, 10:38 PM #4Registered User
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- Sep 2004
From Death to Life Sentence...Originally Posted by Brie
Coffey admitted to a court appointed psychiatrist that he had molested around 100 children in the past. This information was introduced during Coffey's trial for the brutal murder of Amanda Ray. Also introduced were nine convictions of child molestation in which Coffey was found guilty of molesting three children.
The appeal court found that because this information was made available to the jury during sentencing (they were not told of Coffey's proclivities and past record during the actual trial), that it was prejudicial toward him and might have influenced the jury to sentence him to death. Re-sentencing was directed before a different (in this case a third) jury, and that jury voted 10 to 2 in favor of the Death penalty.
Because it was not unanamous, Coffey got a Life sentence, which was to run concurrently (at the same time) with his 50 year sentence for the 9 child molestation convictions. Starting in 1995 and every year since, Fred Coffey has come up for Parole. He has been denied parole ten times in a row, but he will continue to come before the parole board until he is either paroled, sentenced for another crime, or dead.
I believe that he comes up for parole again in March. Feel free to write to the parole board with your thoughts about him.
Here is a link to Coffey's information on The North Carolina Dept of Corrections website:
Last edited by OkieGranny; 04-05-2015 at 02:53 AM. Reason: fixed broken quote
12-25-2004, 03:09 AM #5Registered User
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Link to NC Supreme Court Decision in re Coffey's Death Sentence
Here is a link to the NC Supreme Court Decision and Disenting Opinion on Coffey's appeal of his Death Sentence for murdering ten year-old Amanda Ray. That decision states in part;
"The trial court erred when sentencing defendant for a first-degree murder committed in 1979 by admitting convictions in 1986 as relevant to the mitigating circumstance of no significant history of prior criminal activity..." A lot of legalese gobbledygook follows.
What it comes down to is that Coffey had managed to not get caught until 1986, and then he was convicted of nine counts of Child sexual molestation. He was subsequently (in 1987) tried and convicted of the brutal 1979 murder of little Amanda Ray. During the sentencing phase of the trial, the prosecution referred to Coffey as a "child molester" and introduced his prior (1986) conviction for child molestation. The NC Supreme Court stated that this was prejucicial to Mr. Coffey - because the 1986 Convictions occurred prior to the 1979 murder. The Supreme Court would have the jury kept in the dark about him and presume that before he killed Amanda, he was an innocent lamb and only became a pervert seven years later. Right. God forbid his rights should be infringed by calling him a child molester.
Read far enough into this summary to see what the Dissenting judge says in his opinion.
12-25-2004, 03:55 AM #6Former member
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- Aug 2003
Richard, I'd read about "copyright" information and posting it here. There are some strick rules and I'd HATE TO SEE you be banned from here because of it. You can only post a portion of the article with the relevant link relating the rest.
Otherwise, it's great having you around. Thanks for all that you've contributed already.
04-28-2005, 01:42 PM #7Registered User
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Fred Coffey is up for Parole again...
Fred Howard Coffey, Jr. is up for parole again this summer. Much has been written and said about the rights of criminals. Feel free to exercise your rights and let the North Carolina Parole Board know your feelings about Fred's release. If you oppose his release, then say so. If you are for it, let the board know.
05-04-2005, 09:23 AM #8Registered User
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- Sep 2004
North Carolina Parole Board Website
Here is a link to a website which contains information concerning how the Parole system works in North Carolina. Fred Coffey comes up for parole again in July, as he has since 1995. There are samples of letters to the parole board which can be used to address and model your own letter (or e-mail) to the parole board.
Two juries convicted Coffey of First Degree Murder of a little 10 year old girl, Amanda Ray, and sentenced him to Death for that crime. The NC Supreme Court ordered a resentencing and the third jury voted 10 to 2 for the Death Penalty. Because it was not unanamous, Coffey's sentence was commuted to Life in Prison - which, by NC law, meant that he was immediately (in 1995) elligible for Parole. He has come up for Parole every year in July since then. Each time, the Parole Board has considered Coffey's record and letters to the Parole Board, and each time Parole has been denied. Once again, he will be considered for Parole. Feel free to exercise your right of free speech, and let them know your position on the idea of Parole for Fred Howard Coffey, Jr.
06-08-2005, 01:44 PM #9Registered User
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- Jun 2005
Ok - so I'm coming in very late here.
I did a Google search for Neely a year ago and found nothing...
In 1981 I was 6 years old. We lived at Williamsburg Jamestown appartments. Neely was my best little friend then. We moved alot, so I never knew anyone very long. Neely was always available to play, for reasons that were quite sad once I grew up and understood more.
One rainy, cold February afternoon in 1981, Neely came to my door with a runny nose and no jacket on. She was drenched. She asked my mother if I could come outside and play with her. I sat at the top of our stairs (that were right in front of the door) and listened as my mother said, "No, Serena's got a cold and can't come out. Why don't you come inside?" She said she was going to go look for another friend to play with. We never saw her again. Later that night, all of our neighbors were out with their umbrellas calling for Neely. The most vivid memory I have of that time was looking out the window and seeing the dark umbrellas under the street lights and hearing the voices calling for her. Some sounded like they were calling a lost kitten, and some sounded mad.
Finally, the police came. They asked my parents all kinds of questions, and then went to the laundry-mat which was directly below our apartment. They knocked around and made loud noises down there to see what we'd have been able to hear, if anything. Because of this, I had it in my head that something bad had happened to her down there, and I was afraid to go in anymore.
Later, and I don't have any real way to meassure the time, my father told me they'd found Neely's body. Kudo's to him for not going into detail. Through the years I'd occasionally ask if they ever caught the person that did it. My parents always had their own thoughts about who was responsible, but no - they hadn't arrested anybody. After a few years, I stopped asking.
About 3 or 4 years ago I called the Charlotte Observer to see if I could find anyone that could point me to information - news articles, anything, so I could find out if they ever caught who did it, but mostly I got confused sounding people on the phone, and no one ever returned any of my phone calls.
Last night I did another Google search for "Neely Smith" and found this site. I was shocked, but happy to see that somebody remembered her. And horrified that the person that maybe did it was never even charged, and worse yet, could be free.
I clicked on the link to the parole commission, but didn't find Fred Coffey's name on the list of prisoners up for parole. Does this mean he's already out? Did he walk out of jail a free man last year? Or was he denied, and isn't eligible yet?
I was so intent on writing the parole commission a letter to tell them exactly how my life has been affected by this man's actions. I don't even know if it would be admitted, since he wasn't charged - but this is what I wanted them to know:
Since my little friend was taken away - so quickly, and without any reason at all - I became a very fearful and untrusting child. Every adult I encountered was a potential bad guy. Every new little friend I could have made was just going to go away, so why bother? I became a loner, but not lonely. I took comfort in books, and nature.
I had a morbid fascination with the dead. I wondered about the decaying process - and I pictured Neely out there - alone, cold, and rotting. I convinced myself not to be sad for her because she died - because we all do that. But I was sad for her because she probably died scared. She didn't have her mommy and daddy stroking her head and kissing her cheeks like those little kids you see on the Jerry Lewis telathons. She had a monster steal her life away. I wondered if she screamed. Was she too afraid to scream? I started having nightmares about all kinds of scary things, and I'd wake up with a huge sore lump in my throat because in my dream, I'd tried to scream, but no sound would come out. Is that what happened to Neely? Did her throat hurt from her trying to scream?
I wondered about her during the different events of my life. Which high-school would she have graduated from (in Charlotte, who knows?)? Would she have gone to college? Would she have ever found her soul mate and made pretty little babies? Of course, I didn’t know Neely very long. Had things not turned out they way they had, I probably would have moved away again, and to this day not remember her name if it were to be repeated to me. She’d be a vague memory of that person I played Barbies with in my little closet in that apartment we lived in before we moved to Independence Avenue.
Last night after I found this site and read all about Fred Howard Coffey, Jr., I called my mom. I wondered if, since he lived in the same apartments, she remembered him. I started by saying, "Mom, did you ever hear anything about what happened to Neely Smith?" She thought for a minute and replied, "That name is familiar, but I'm not sure I know who it is."
06-08-2005, 02:51 PM #10
I wish you had posted the link about Neely in your post. That is a very moving statement, and if Coffey is the one suspected of being responsible for this child's death, then I would say YES send it. You very clearly explained how the death affected you all of your life, even though you only knew her a short time. It will be a good reminder to the board that the death of a child affects more than the child and its parents.Just when I think that I have seen the most depraved things a human can do to another human, somebody posts a new story...........
Why is it that when a custodial parent fails to provide for a child it is called neglect and is a criminal matter. But when a non custodial parent fails to provide it is called failure to support and is a civil matter?
"Just when the caterpillar thought its world was over, it became a butterfly" ~ Michelle Knight
06-08-2005, 03:05 PM #11Registered User
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- May 2005
I lived in Charlotte at that time and remember this like it was yesterday. My neighbor at the time was a police captain who worked on the case, and I remember also the toll it took on him.
Recently The Charlotte Observer published an article on the family (see below for snippet). I remember reading it - it broke my heart. The Observer charges $2.95 to see the full article but I thought you might be interested.
Article 16 of 25; 1053 words
FAMILY AWAITS RELEASE
Source: MELISSA MANWARE, STAFF WRITER
Kristen Smith answers the telephone Friday afternoon and smiles. "It's Daddy," she says."You are leaving now?" she asks."He's checking his stuff out," she tells her mom, Sandra.Kristen, 19, and Sandra had already started hanging balloons from their dining room chairs.Kristen's dad, Neil Smith, is on his way home.Smith, 47, had been in prison for two years and eight days - since a jury convicted him of killing a relative he
Published on February 12, 2005, Page 1A, Charlotte Observer, The (NC)
If you go to their website and do a search of the archives for fred coffey, you can find the article I reference above. www.charlotteobserver.com. Make sure you search the archives and not the last 7 days.
06-08-2005, 03:21 PM #12Registered User
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- Jun 2005
Thank you. It was worth the $2.95.
I'm reeling from reading this story. I know there have to be reasons beyond reputation and proximity for Charlotte police to suspect Fred Coffey, but this article strengthens many of the suspicions I heard my parents voice all those years ago.
I feel for that whole family. It sounds as if none of them have had an easy life.
06-09-2005, 02:16 PM #13Registered User
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- Nov 2004
Fred CoffeyOriginally Posted by Richard
- On July 25, 1975: Kathy Lynn Beatty, 14, of Aspen Hill, MD (Montgomery County), was found in the woods behind a local K-Mart store, raped and beaten with a fractured skull. She lived for two weeks before dying from her injuries on August 5. The crime occurred less than a mile from where Coffey worked at the time. Coffey quit his job on July 31, and left the area.
- Travis Shane King, 8, disappeared from his home at the Eastridge Apartment complex in Bristol Virginia, on August 21, 1986. A day later, his body was found near a lake about 17 miles from his home. An autopsy indicated that he died of asphyxiation. Coffey was living in Bristol at the time, and Travis was seen with Coffey shortly before he disappeared.
In my opinion, this is an individual who should never be released into society again.
06-09-2005, 03:19 PM #14Registered User
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- Jun 2005
Do you know how to find out if he was released? That post from Richard is from 4Q04, so I'm not at all sure he wasn't. His name doesn't appear on the parole board website....
06-09-2005, 03:22 PM #15Registered User
Originally Posted by SerenaWelsh
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You can view his offender data here: http://webapps6.doc.state.nc.us/apps...s&numtimesin=1
If you would like to express your feelings about Coffey to the North Carolina Post Release Supervision And Parole Commission, here is a link to a sample letter that you can use: http://www.charmeck.nc.us/Department...ple+Letter.htm
FYI, the parole hearings are open to the public.
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