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Unsolved homicide cases still on minds of local, state lawmen

Seven years and a half mile or so of homes separate the spots where Robin Reeves and Betty Mae Jones were found - both victims of unsolved homicides.

And the faces of both women are seared in the minds of local investigators, who grow more frustrated as each day passes. They remain the only two unsolved homicides in the City of Thomson.

"I've spent many, many hours working on both of these cases," said Thomson Police Assistant Chief Jerry Stanphill, who worked both murder cases as the city's investigator when they occurred. "I'd love nothing better than to solve both of them, because the families of both of these victims deserve to see the person responsible for the killing of their loved ones in jail where he belongs."

In both cases, a number of persons have been questioned by Thomson police, the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department and agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Still, despite countless hours of work on both cases, lawmen have exhausted their efforts to find the persons responsible for the seemingly senseless killings of both Ms. Jones and Ms. Reeves.

Gary Nicholson, special agent in-charge of the GBI's Region 7 office in Thomson, said neither one of the unsolved murder cases in Thomson are considered "cold cases."

"There is no such thing as a cold case within the files of the GBI anywhere," Agent Nicholson said. "It's bureau policy that any unsolved murder case be reviewed at least every so often, even if there are no new leads."

Missing, found and still unsolved

Betty Mae Jones' case started in early May of 1994.

Ms. Jones was reported missing by her mother on May 5, 1994. It wasn't until three weeks later - on a smoldering Friday afternoon in late May - that her mostly skeletal remains were found in a vacant field off Gordon Street. An autopsy at the time showed she had been strangled.

Her death, Assistant Chief Stanphill theorizes, likely occurred in the midst of a sexual assault attack, while walking along a path in the vacant field adjacent to Millie's Florist. A number of people through the years, as well as today, use that field as a shortcut to get across to businesses and residences on the other side of Gordon Street.

"I personally believe she was murdered while possibly being involved in some sort of drug deal that turned into a sexual assault and ended with her life being taken," Asst. Chief Stanphill said.

In the weeks following her death, the names of at least two suspects materialized. Neither of them, however, proved to be the person responsible for her murder, said Asst. Chief Stanphill.

Thirteen years later, the search for her killer continues.

A case made personal

It's been six years since Robin Reeves' body was found in the hallway of her Gordon Street home. She had been repeatedly slashed with what apparently was a sharp instrument of some type, Assistant Chief Stanphill said. Authorities have never said for sure whether it was a knife, because a weapon was never found.

The images Assistant Chief Stanphill saw that morning still weigh heavily on his mind.

The reminder is intentional: Once a week or so, he'll lift his desk calendar and look at the picture of the crime scene he keeps hidden there.

"It makes me sad, of course, to look at her that way in the picture, but on the upside, it lifts me up as a police officer to know that we've got to get the person who did this terrible thing to her," he said. "This case goes against every grain in law enforcement for the person who did this to her to still be walking the streets."

Anyone with information about the murder cases of Ms. Jones or Ms. Reeves is asked to contact the GBI office at (706)-595-2575, the Thomson Police Department at (706)-595-2166 or the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department at (706)-595-1711.

Web posted on Thursday, June 07, 2007

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