Discussion in 'Mystery couple murdered South Carolina 1976' started by christine2448, Sep 18, 2008.
Please post here any media links relating to the couple murdered in SC, 1976.
No discussion please.
Posted by Richard on thread #1
The following ran in The Item newspaper on August 12, 2001.
The Mystery: No I.D., No Leads, No Justice
By Sharyn Lucas-Parker, Senior Staff Writer, The Item
In August of 1976, a woman and a man were found slain beside a dirt road in Sumter County. The deaths are unsolved and they still are unidentified. But they are not forgotten
The two people buried in Bethel United Methodist Church cemetery whose bronze plaques read ''Male Unknown, Aug. 9, 1976," and ''Female Unknown, Aug. 9, 1976,'' never attended a service at the Oswego church or paid tithes there. But for the past 24 years, the members of the church have made sure their resting places remain free of weeds and overgrown grass and that fresh bouquets of flowers mark their graves.
There has been no one else to do it.
''If it were some of our children, we would hope someone would do the same thing for us,'' said the Rev. Michael Henderson, who has been the pastor for six years. ''It's part of that 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'"
Somewhere, perhaps thousands of miles away, or maybe just a state or even only a county over, local authorities believe there are heart-sick relatives who might suspect, but don't know for certain, their loved ones are dead.
Twenty-eight years after the young woman and man were found dead on a dark, secluded Sumter County dirt road between Interstate 95 and S.C. 341, their identities as well as that of their killer or killers remain a mystery.
That thought haunts Sumter County Coroner Verna Moore and drives her to continue trying to find the answers she needs to solve this puzzle that dates back to Aug. 9, 1976.
"I have not given up on this case,'' said Moore, who was deputy coroner back then. ''The reason I am haunted is, I cannot understand how two young people disappeared from somewhere and that their parents would not be looking for them. This does not make sense to me. Somebody somewhere is missing a son or a daughter.''
The case also bothers Sumter County Sheriff Tommy Mims, who was an investigator with the sheriff's office at the time.
''This is one of several cases over the years that we would certainly love to bring to a close so we can identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice on this,'' Mims said.
The story begins around 6:20 a.m. on August 9, when a trucker driving along what was commonly known as Locklair Road, a frontage road just off the interstate, stopped to rest.
Instead, he found a disturbing scene: Two people lying by the road.
Florence Morning News from August 11, 1976 that says they thought they were shot right there and that nearby residents heard gunshots between midnight and 1:00 a.m.
Bodies Located Monday
Are Still Unidentified
Sumter authorities believe an unidentified man and woman whose bodies were found Monday on a dirt road near the Florence County line probably were out of state travelers. "We've sent teletypes everywhere," Kumler County Sheriff I. Byrd Parnell said, adding that they had received inquiries from as far away as Rhode Island. He also said that bulletins describing the two have been sent to other states and missing persons reports are being checked. The two were found about 6:20 a.m. near 1-95 and S.C. 141 by a man on his way to work. The dead man was about six feet tall, weighed 150 to 160 pounds and had brown shoulder-length hair. The woman was about 5-5, weighed about 110 pounds and had reddish brown hair. Both are believed to have been in their early 20s. "This girl was very young and very pretty. He was clean shaven. They were well groomed. They weren't the hippie-type. They looked like the All-American boy and girl travelers," Parnell said, "It looks like they were executed right there."
Sumter County Coroner J. Bennie Raffield said the bodies were about four or five feet apart and that both were lying on their backs. The two are believed to have been shot between midnight Sunday and 1 a.m. Monday, the coroner said. Area residents reported hearing gunshots from the area about that time.
Their bodies were exhumed in June in hopes of extracting usable teeth and bone samples.
link to tv show it is season 2 episode 39
news story on the 30th anniversary from 2006
(Sumter) May 25, 2006 - There are two bodies buried in a cemetery in Sumter, but no one knows their names. After almost 30 years the case still haunts Sumter County Coroner Verna Moore.
But she won't give up on her silent victims. "I feel there is possibly someone who knows who they are."
She wants that person to come forward.
Not only are their identities a mystery, but their killer or killers are as well.
Their bodies were found off Highway 341. They were both shot three times, once in the throat, chest and back.
A longtime resident, Jerry Locklair, still remembers that August day the bodies were found. The once-dirt road was closed for days. "The community wasn't so upset as much as curious as to what happened. It was evident it was something off I-95. We'd just like to see it resolved at sometime."
Partial Quote from Porchlight:
Several interesting details in this article I had not read, including the couple stayed at the KOA campsite for approx. 2 weeks and Jock said he was a school teacher..
Verna Moore remembers the day the two bodies were found. As an assistant to the coroner at the time, she combed their matted hair before a photographer took their pictures.
"The thing that impressed me about her was her beautiful, long eyelashes. You don't often see them like that," Ms. Moore said.
"They were clean. They had no drugs or alcohol in them. They had nice jewellery on. They had stayed someplace the night before and taken showers. That impressed everybody. You couldn't say they were hitchhiking or living on the streets."
She has never forgotten the case. Now at age 81 and having since been elected chief coroner, Ms. Moore wants to reunite the couple with their relatives before she retires.
At the Sumter County Sheriff's Office she has found a ready partner.
"The case went cold, so far as their identity is concerned," said Sergeant Ray Mackessy, who is in charge of police evidence storage. "It had just been in a box on the shelf, and it laid there for years and years."
Much work had been done and some mistakes made.
Perhaps the best chance for solving the mystery came four months after the murder when a South Carolina man was arrested for drinking and driving. Under his car seat police found a .357-calibre handgun. Tests linked it to the slayings. The man with the gun, Lonnie George Henry, was asked about the murders while hooked up to a lie detector and the experts declared he was telling the truth when he said he did not kill them; he was, however, lying about where he got the gun.
Police were sure he knew more than he was saying.
"No charges were ever laid in it, and he has since gone on to his just reward," said Sgt. Mackessy.
Mr. Henry died in 1982, without revealing his secrets.
"We're obviously not going to get a prosecution in this," Ms. Moore said. "I just want to find out who they are."
Ms. Moore and Sgt. Mackessy have retraced the case as best they can but leads are dwindling. Their hopes now rest on Canada.
There have been many guesses over the decades as to what brought the young couple to Sumter County. Some have suggested they were in the Witness Protection Program. Others suspected they were couriering drugs up from Florida. Victims of a deadly carjacking was a popular theory. Others whispered that their parents might have had them bumped off.
"There are all kinds of guesses all really based on nothing," said Sgt. Mackessy. "It's like they came here from another planet."
Or, as investigators now believe, Canada.
"Even after all these years I realized there were things that had not come out and not followed up on. It never came out that he said he was from Canada," Ms. Moore said.
The Canadian connection comes from a four-page report found in the evidence box, written a year after the murders by Lieutenant James E. Gamble of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
Lt. Gamble received a phone call from a man named David Batson who said he recognized the dead man. Mr. Batson's wife, Janie, worked at a nearby KOA Campground, the report says. While at the campground, Mr. Batson met a young man and woman who said they were passing through on their way to Florida. A few days later, they returned to the campground, telling Mr. Batson that they liked it there more than in Florida. They stayed at the KOA for a couple of weeks and Mr. Batson shot pool with the man several times. He later believed his pool partner was the mystery victim.
"The man was called Jock," says Lt. Gamble's report.
"He stated that he believed the man had mentioned he was from Canada; that he had formerly been a schoolteacher and that his father was a medical doctor. He further stated that the man told him that his family had practically disowned him because they had wanted him so badly to be a doctor."
One evening as they played pool, "Jock" tried to sell Mr. Batson a ring he was wearing. The ring looked "very similar" to one police found on the dead man's finger, Mr. Batson said.
The possible name is intriguing because on the underside of the dead man's ring are three engraved letters: JPF. If the letters are the three initials of his name, then perhaps the J stands for Jock; or, as Ronna Hutchison, a private investigator working on the case, suggests: If the man was from Canada, perhaps it is "Jacques" rather than "Jock."
Mr. Batson's tantalizing tip, however, seemed to get lost.
"There is nothing in the file to indicate they followed up on that information about Canada," Sgt. Mackessy said.
Both Lt. Gamble and Mr. Batson have since died and the KOA has closed. Ms. Moore, however, tracked down the former KOA owners. They told her they kept detailed records on campers - including names, addresses and even photographs. Those records, however, had been destroyed when their home burned.
"I can't tell you how disappointing that was," she said.
The elaborate dental work on the young male victim also seemed a promising lead, but when Sgt. Mackessy looked for the teeth they were missing. A note in the file said they had been sent to a dentist for analysis. When they tracked down the dentist, he said he had given the teeth to the local school for training purposes. School officials said they had recently been disposed of.
Ms. Moore next convinced the television show Unsolved Mysteries to feature the case. That prompted 200 calls, which were pursued without success.
In recent years, a small army of volunteers has sprung up to help Ms. Moore. One local woman hopes to write a book about the case; another writes poetry inspired by it. Psychics have offered their musings and several amateur online sleuths have created Web sites to publicize the case.
Ms. Hutchison, the private investigator, scoured lists of Canadian doctors practising in 1976, looking for a possible father to the dead man. She found a Montreal physician who bore a striking resemblance.
Ms. Moore phoned him and asked if he had a missing son. He said he did not.
Medical science might still play a part in putting names to the victims. Last summer, the two coffins were dug up.
When Dr. Keene Garvin, a forensic pathologist, learned whom he was going to be exhuming he was surprised. Back in 1976 he helped perform their autopsies.
"They were fresh and in good condition - they could have had an open casket funeral. They were a young, handsome couple; they had money. I remember saying somebody would identify this couple immediately," he said.
"I was shocked to find they were never identified."
Both were white, with olive tones to their skin and were between 18 and 26 years old.
She was 5-foot-6, weighed about 105 pounds and had brown hair, blue-grey eyes, long eyelashes and two small moles to the left of her mouth. She wore a white blouse over a peach halter top and blue Levi's jeans cut off into shorts with a floral scarf as a belt. She wore purple and pink wedge shoes and three silver rings with embedded gems.
He was just over 6 feet and weighed about 150 pounds. He had brown hair, brown eyes and bushy eyebrows. He was undergoing extensive dental reconstruction and had two scars on his left shoulder. He wore a red Coors T-shirt, blue jeans and brown sandals. He had a Bulova Accutron gold watch and a gold ring with a gem and the engraved letters JPF.
Their autopsy notes describe the couple simply: "slender, attractive" and "well-developed, well-nourished."
Three decades after he first saw them, Dr. Garvin once again returned to the couple's remains. He took bone samples he hopes will yield DNA.
Without something to compare the DNA with, however, it will be of little help. That means hope in Sumter County again turns to Canada.
"If someone in Canada came forward and said, ‘I think that is my brother or sister,' or whatever, then we could obtain an oral sample from them to compare. It's our best bet," Sgt. Mackessy said.
Added Ms. Moore: "I cannot understand how two young people disappeared from somewhere and that their parents would not be looking for them. It is unreal that after all this time - it will be 32 years this summer - that nobody seems to be looking for them."
Or maybe they have just been looking in all the wrong places.