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Unsolved Crimes


5/26/2012 - HOMICIDE OF ROBERT SNOW - Kanawha County

On May 23, 2012, Robert Snow, 7-11/Prima Marketing District Manager, was reported missing.    Mr. Snow`s body was recovered on May 26th from the Elk River in Charleston.

If you have informaton on the homicide of Robert Snow, please submit your tip at this website and it will be fowarded to the Charleston Police Department Criminal Investigation Division.    HOWEVER,  to be eligible to receive the $10,000.00  reward offered by Prima Marketing/7-11, you must call information directly to the Charleston Police Department Criminal Investigation Division at  304-348-6480.     

Prima Marketing/7-11 has offered a $10,000.00 reward upon conviction to anyone who provides information directly to the Charleston Polce Department Criminal Investigation Division at 304-348-6480.   

REMEMBER:   You are anonymous with Crime Stoppers.    Your identity will never be known throught the process.   Click on the  SOLVE THIS CRIME below to submit your tip.

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3/18/2010 - Oak Hill City Police Officer Shot

The search for the suspect involved in the Thursday morning shooting of an Oak Hill Police officer remains ongoing.    Oak Hill City Police Corporal Chris Young was conducting a routine traffic stop at about 4:30 AM on March 18, 2010, on WV 61 a mile north of Oak Hill when the suspect got out of his vehicle, produced a hand gun and fired twice at Young.   One bullet struck his cruiser`s door and the other the base of Young`s sternum.   Young was wearing a bullet-proof vest which saved his life.  

The suspect is believed to be a Black male driving a large dark colored vehicle with out-of-state tags, possibly Ohio tags.   

If you have information regarding this shooting, please give information here, or call 304-255-STOP, or contact the Fayette County Sheriff`s Department at 304-574-4304.

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8/15/1999 - The Fire Pit - Disappearance of Jonathan Skaggs / Oak Hill (Fayette County) WV


THE FIRE PIT  -  THE DISAPPEARANCE OF JONATHAN SKAGGS 

Near Oak Hill, WV  August 15, 1999



At 12:26 a.m. on Sunday, August 15, 1999, a woman reported that she had observed a man lying in the road near the intersection of Route 61 and Dempsey Branch Road.  For 911 dispatchers Bill McGraw and Billy Ray Watts it was the sort of call that came in all  too often.   It could be someone struck by an automobile, it could be someone seriously injured in a crime, or it could merely be someone too intoxicated to find his way home.

Playing it safe, the 911 agents dispatched General Ambulance Unit 112 and Fayette County Deputy J. M. Feltner to the scene.   Upon his arrival at 12:40, Deputy Feltner soon determined that the latter was the case. It was obvious that 24-year-old Jonathan Skaggs had had far too much to drink that night. Skaggs refused medical treatment and the ambulance returned to the station.   However, the deputy felt a responsibility to get Skaggs somewhere that he could sleep off the alcohol without being a threat to himself or others.   With that in mind, he offered the intoxicated young man a ride.

Skaggs was unwilling to go to either of his parent’s residences. Instead, he requested that Feltner take him to Clint Toney’s house located ½ mile up Dempsey Branch Road from Route 61. According to Skaggs, he was a frequent visitor to the Toney residence and could spend the night there. The officer transported Skaggs to the residence and watched until he had entered the house.

Almost exactly 24 hours later, Tommy Bibb, Jonathan Skagg’s stepfather, contacted Deputy Feltner.   Bibb advised the deputy that no one had seen Jonathan since Saturday night and that he and his wife were concerned about his safety. The deputy informed Bibb that he had seen Jonathan the night before and he had been intoxicated but perfectly healthy. However, when Jonathan had still not returned home by Tuesday, Bibb and his wife worried enough to contact the deputy again.   Bibb told Deputy Feltner that Jonathan had not picked up his paycheck on Monday, which he had never failed to do before.   On August 17, 1999, Deputy Sergeant C. D. Moses contacted Tommy Bibb and completed the necessary paperwork to have Jonathan Wesley Skaggs officially listed as a missing person.

The Sheriff ’s department began retracing Jonathan’s steps on the day before his disappearance.   His stepsister, Christina Bibb had dropped the young man off at the home of his father, Gary Skaggs, in the Dempsey Branch area on Saturday, August 14. According to Bibb, Jonathan had left his father’s home to attend a party at the residence of Nicole Thomas. The records indicated that Deputy Feltner transported Jonathan to the residence of Alfred Clinton Toney shortly after midnight on August 15th.

Deputy S. D. Snuffer went to Clinton Toney’s residence on Dempsey Branch road seeking information concerning the whereabouts of Jonathan Skaggs. However, Toney informed Snuffer that he had not seen Jonathan for “quite some time”. This seemed to be a strange answer since the records indicated that Feltner had dropped Skaggs off at the Toney house on Saturday night.

Sheriff Department detectives G. E. Burke and Steve Kessler began conducting an official investigation into the disappearance of Jonathan Skaggs.   They began by contacting Nicole Thomas who reportedly hosted a party on the night that Skaggs disappeared.
Thomas told officers that Skaggs had joined the party around 11:00 p.m. on August 14th. According to Thomas, Skaggs got involved in an altercation with Shaun Tincher and that was broken up by James Jones.   Following the fight, Thomas asked Skaggs to leave the party. She provided the names of other people who were present at the party including Mikele Ann Miller, James Jones, Shaun Tincher, and Samantha Obey.  Clinton Toney had dropped by the party briefly but soon returned home.

Mikele Ann Miller told officers that she and Shaun Tincher had left the party together around midnight. They had seen Skaggs lying in the roadway.   Afterwards, they left the area and traveled to Ingram Branch.   When questioned, Shaun Tincher confirmed the versions offered by Miller and Thomas.

Gradually, the story of the night was unfolded.  Skaggs had arrived at the Thomas home around 11:00 PM.  He left around midnight following an altercation with Shaun Tincher.   At 12:40, he was found lying in the street by Deputy Feltner who dropped him off at the
residence of Clint Toney at approximately 1:00 AM.   However, at that point the mystery began. 

Initially officers theorized that in his intoxicated condition, Jonathan had either fallen over a hill or been struck by a vehicle. Burke and Kessler began conducting a search of the roadway between Route 61 and the Toney residence. During the search, they encountered members of Skaggs family who were also searching the area. However, there was no sign of Skaggs along the roadway.

It was as if the young man disappeared after being dropped off at Clint Toney’s by Deputy Feltner.   Officers were familiar with the Toney residence. Clint Toney had been living in the home since the death of his mother the year before. Since that time, the house had gained a reputation as a party house and investigators established that a party had been held at the house the Saturday before.   There had also been a party going on at the nearby home of Nicole Thomas. Partygoers traveled back and forth between the two.

Detectives decided to make another visit to Alfred Clinton Toney.  This time he admitted that Skaggs had been at his home on the night he disappeared.   According to Toney, he had constructed a fire circle near the front door and everyone who came to the party threw items into the fire. Contributions included trash, tires, and wood. The fire pit burned from August 13th to August 15th.

Clinton Toney agreed to take a Computer Voice Analysis Test on 08/19/1999. Chief Deputy Steele detected deception in Toney’s responses to the relevant questions, “Did you kill Johnny Skaggs?” and “Do you know who killed Johnny Skaggs?”

On 08/20/1999, Toney came to the Sheriff’s Office and requested to speak with Detective Burke.   He told the detective that he might have burned Skaggs in the fire at his home.  He said that later he had removed the ash and debris from the fire, along with other household debris, and disposed of these ashes and trash on his grandmother’s property.

While investigating the dumpsite, officers smelled what they believed to be charred human flesh and witnessed what appeared to be bone fragments in the ash.   They retreated and requested the assistance of a cadaver dog. Upon arrival, the dog indicated that the ash pile contained human remains. The area was immediately secured as a crime scene.

The search went on into the night as deputies used a sifting screen to search the ash piles. The local fire department was summoned to provide portable lighting equipment and the search went on through the night.   The evidence was loaded into the Jeep of Corporal C. E. Martin and transported immediately to the office of the Chief Medical Examiner in South Charleston, WV.

A search warrant for Toney’s residence was executed on August 21. Deputies seized several articles from the residence that they believed could help tell the story of the fate of Skaggs. The most chilling clues came from the circular stone fire pit located against the hillside adjacent to the cinder block home.   Upon close examination and sifting, officers revealed what appeared to be bone fragments and the same type of metal grommet that had previously been located at the dumpsite.   Officers also smelled the same charred flesh odor that had been present at the dumpsite.

The evidence from the fire pit was also transported to the office of the Chief Medical Examiner and turned over to Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Paul F. Mellen.   The evidence was described as “36 bags of extremely burned material, weighing 350 pounds”. From this tide of debris, Mellen sifted out approximately five pounds of assorted remains including two fragments of recognizable human femur with skeletal muscle attached, as well as numerous small bone fragments.   He also located a rusted and inoperative revolver mixed with the remains.

At this point, the Medical Examiner could state that a body had been burned in the fire pit but he had no way to determine if the bone fragments belonged to Jonathan Skaggs.   DNA samples from the bone fragments were submitted to the Smithsonian Institute for a detailed comparison to family members of Skaggs. In January 2000, the bone fragments were positively identified as those of Jonathan Skaggs.

Deputies began to interview neighbors of Toney. A neighbor stated that she had seen Clint Toney at 6:30 AM  on the morning of Sunday, August 15th.  Toney told her that he was cleaning up and getting rid of things he didn’t want anymore. He told her that he was burning a chair and an old mattress.

On November 11, 1999, Deputy Kessler received a letter from Dr. Douglas Owsley of the Smithsonian Institute Museum of Natural History. Dr. Owsley had concluded his report on the forensic anthropological examination he and his staff had conducted on the remains
found in the fire pit and dumpsite.   The report states that the bone assemblage represented that of a single individual with 1331 bone fragments totaling a weight of 1162 grams. All skeletal elements were represented in the remains. The report also confirmed that the remains were those of Jonathan Wesley Skaggs.   Although Dr. Owlsey could not determine a cause of death, his report did state that all bone breakage was the result of postmortem damage and that the “high degree of fragmentation reflects intentional effort to cause breakage.”    According to the doctor, “the pattern of burning and the extreme breakage reflect deliberate manipulations and fracturing of the remains while being burned.”

Deputies interviewed Clint Toney again. This time Toney stated that after Skaggs left the house, he had eaten and then gone to bed. He later awoke and smelled a terrible odor coming from his fire pit. The smell was so bad that he began vomiting. He also saw something black in the pit. He threw more stuff on top of it and went back to bed. It was not until later that it occurred to Toney that the black object in the fire pit might have
been the body of Jonathan Skaggs.   Investigators found it difficult to believe Toney’s story that Skaggs may have fallen into the pit accidentally.   Based on photos of the crime scene, it was estimated that the interior of the fire pit was no more than 4¾ to 5 feet in diameter.  Skaggs was 5’7” tall and his body could not have fit in the pit without being folded or broken.  And according to forensic evidence, the body had been intentionally manipulated and broken into small pieces as it was being burned. According to witnesses, there was no fire in the pit as late as 3:30 AM but it was burning by 6:30 AM at which time Toney was awake and actively feeding the fire.

Toney altered his story again on August 5, 2001 during an interview at the Southern Regional Jail.  At this time, Toney told West Virginia State Police Sergeant Scott Vanmeter a completely different version of the death of Skaggs. Toney stated that Jason Rinehart, Nicole Thomas, Sean Andrews and several others were at his home when Officer Feltner dropped Jonathan Skaggs off there.  He stated that Skaggs was angry at the theft of his liquor and that he went to Nicole Thomas’ house to continue the argument.
Toney maintained that he went to bed but was awakened at approximately 4:00 AM by the sounds of people arguing. He said that he looked out his window and saw several people from the Thomas party in his driveway.  He said that Skaggs was sitting in the driveway and that the men were kicking and stomping Skaggs. He stated that the group rolled Skaggs in a blue tarp and dragged him into the fire pit. According to Toney, when Skaggs body would not fit into the pit, the group used a shovel to push his legs in and then placed tires and other flammable material on top of him to increase the fire. At that
time, Toney stated that the group ran away.  According to his statement, Toney returned to his bed and did not arise until the next morning.

Police found many details in this story that did not fit the facts. Witnesses had not witnessed the fire burning until the next morning. The people implicated had been consistent in their versions of events that night while Toney had changed his story several times. The blue tarp had belonged to Clint Toney.  Neighbors had witnessed Toney actively feeding the fire the next morning.   During the following months, rumors spread like wildfire through the community. Tales of witchcraft and devil worship were fired by tales of Toney attending the party in a Devil’s mask. Toney was supplying drugs to at least one member of the party.   And Toney continued to change his story to blame
anyone and everyone for Skaggs’ death but himself.

The death of Jonathan Skaggs’ has not been forgotten nor has the investigation been abandoned.  Fayette County Sheriff William Laird remains determined to see 
the murderer of Skaggs brought to justice.   For the past eight years, Chief Deputy Steve Kessler and the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department Detective Unit have amassed volumes of testimony as witnesses were questioned repeatedly in the determined effort. Clue by clue, statement by statement, the case will be built until prosecution is assured.

Eight years after the 911 call, only one fact remains indisputable. On a dark August night, the young life of Jonathan Wesley Skaggs was lost in the smoke of a deadly fire pit.

And still no one has been charged. . .    WE NEED YOUR HELP TO SOLVE THIS COLD CASE.    Crime Stoppers will pay a $1,000.00 reward to Tipster who provides sufficient information to lead law enforcement to make an arrest on this case.   Furthermore, there is a $20,000.00 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of person(s) responsible for any unsolved cold case murder in Fayette County, WV.   Eligibility to be determined by the Fayette County Prosecutor`s Office.   Contact the Fayette County Sheriff`s Department at 304-574-4216.

 

 

Crime Stoppers would like to thank George Bragg and Morgan Bragg of GEM Publications in Beaver, WV,  for furnishing this story.    To purchase GEM publications of "WV Cold Case Homicides"  and  "WV Unsolved Murders I" call  GEM Publications at 304-256-8400.


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1/22/1992 - The Murder of Eddie Brown / Kincaid (Fayette County) WV
Click to Enlarge


The Loss of Innocence

The Murder of Eddie Brown

January 22, 1992    Kincaid, WV

Few places in the world can equal the sense of community once found in the coal communities of the West Virginia Mountains. In their heydays, they were places where neighbors knew and looked out for each other.   So it once was in the twin communities of Page and Kincaid where the 1990’s dawned on citizens struggling to protect the idealistic sense of community that had once played such an important part in their lives.

To a stranger passing through, Page and Kincaid seemed the quintessential small neighborhood. The central features of the community were the churches, the post office, a small store, and the Sunoco station. Several churches in the community still held old-fashioned suppers in their whitewashed wooden buildings where members congregated to strengthen their faith in the face of a changing world. Men still gathered at the Woods Quick Mart to trade hunting stories and share community gossip. Children still waited for the school bus inside Via’s Sunoco Station under the protective eye of Eddie Brown.   Perhaps it is only natural that a community reflects the character of its citizens. If there was one citizen in particular who manifested the best of the Kincaid and Page area, it was Dewey Edward “Eddie” Brown.   The 72-year old life-long resident of Kincaid was a man whose very presence brought a smile to adults and children alike. At 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing 250 pounds, Eddie had the physical size to be intimidating but his sweet smile and laughing eyes soon unveiled his warm and gentle heart.

In 1992, Eddie was a familiar sight at Via’s Service Station where he had helped people for the past 14 years.  Although he worked 12 to 14 hours a day, it was generally assumed that he really didn’t need the money.   Eddie lived simply in the family home on Camp Branch Road with his younger sister, Ola.   And everyone who Dewey Edward Brown knew Eddie was aware that he always carried money in his right shirt pocket. This was common knowledge, not because Eddie bragged about it, but because people knew that if they went to Eddie for help, he was always willing to pull the money out for a loan or a gift toward gas
or groceries.

Eddie didn’t keep working at the service station because he was an automobile enthusiast. He did not own a car. Eddie kept working for one personal reason - he wanted to be there if anyone needed him.  More than anything – Eddie wanted to help people.  Kincaid children grew up knowing he could always be counted on to slip them a candy bar if they didn’t have the money.    As they grew to adulthood, they knew the same was true for gas or grocery money for the family.  For the community of Kincaid, Eddie was a symbol of the type of kindness and trusting innocence that has made small town America a beloved memory. 

As the decade of 1980`s drew to an end, the way of life was changing in Page and Kincaid, but no one could have predicted just how bad it would get.  Unemployment was up. Property values declined and a new breed of resident began to emerge.   Run-down campers were brought in and parked in the hollow near Camp Branch Road. Neighbors were complaining about the partying, drinking, and drug deals that were going on. Community leaders formed a plan to work with the Sheriff’s Department to set up a Neighborhood Watch Program.   During the autumn of 1991, residents were distracted from the glory of the changing colors in the mountains by a rash of burglaries, break-ins and windows being shot-out. Police stepped up patrols in the area and a juvenile believed to be the leader of a gang was arrested. Uneasy but hopeful, the community took comfort in the fact that there had been an arrest and at least no one had been hurt. The men who gathered at the Quick Mart for soft drinks and gossip could only hope that the arrest of the troubled young man would mark the end of the crime spree.

If there was one resident of Kincaid who was not worried, it was probably Eddie Brown, who had literally lived there his entire life. While others left in the pursuit of wealth or happiness, Eddie had found contentment without ever leaving his boyhood home.

On the morning of January 22, 1992 Eddie began his day in the usual way. He wasn’t scheduled to open Via’s Sunoco Station until 6:00 a.m. but he usually had it open by 4:00. Since he had gotten older, Eddie found he didn’t sleep much and he preferred to be busy.  When asked about his early day, Eddie explained that the other stations didn’t open until 6:00. What if miners headed to work needed something for their lunch? Where would the children wait for the bus if the station wasn’t open?   He liked to open early enough to have it warm and ready when the kids arrived for their wait.  So Eddie arose early that morning, probably before some of the rougher residents had even gone to bed.  He was out of bed by 1:30 and ate the breakfast Ola prepared for him before embarking on the 1½ mile walk to the Sunoco. He donned a hooded sweat shirt, a hooded jacket, and a baseball cap to protect his face from the chill wind of the winter morning.   Eager to begin his day, he collected the two flashlights he always carried on the morning walk and started out.

As soon as Eddie left, Ola prepared to return to her bed.   As she walked through the house, for a moment she thought she heard muffled voices outside.  Dismissing the idea, she turned out the lights and lay down to return to sleep.   Moments afterward, nearby neighbors were roused from sleep momentarily by the sound of barking dogs but soon, they too, returned to slumber.  Everyone rested peacefully in the knowledge that no one was out there at this time of night but good old Eddie, headed to work.

Eddie made the walk every morning and except in very bad weather, it was one of the highlights of his day. Sometimes Dick and Clarine Marshall would drive by on their newspaper route and stop to offer him a ride but he usually turned down the offer.  Eddie liked the walk.     That fateful night, he walked in the darkness through the community he loved, secure in the confidence that no harm would come to him in his hometown.   He was on a mission to prepare the station for visits by schoolchildren in need of warmth and candy,  or travelers in need of assistance.

The next 30 minutes are where the mystery lies.    For sometime in that half hour, a single act of violence brought an end to both the kindness of Eddie Brown and the innocence of his community.   No one knows exactly what happened in those 30 minutes – or at least no one who will tell it. The next person to see Eddie was former station owner, Eslie Bills.    That morning, Bills was driving down Rt. 61 returning to his home. As he passed the Sunoco station, he saw Eddie unlocking the door.  He remembers that Eddie looked up with what Bills later described as a bewildered or “deer in the headlights” look on his face. Thinking that his automobile coming unexpectedly down the road had startled Eddie; Bills traveled on toward home with a slight twinge of regret. Glancing at the clock, he noticed it was 2:39.

The Marshalls regularly traveled through Kincaid at that time of night to deliver the Beckley Post-Herald.  They had grown accustomed to seeing the Sunoco station opened on their return journey as Eddie prepared it for the coming day.  However, this morning was different.  They knew that instantly when they saw the station sitting dark and apparently abandoned. As they came closer, they realized that the door stood open even though the lights were out and the alarm buzzed in the darkness.   Concerned that Eddie had been taken ill, the couple pulled onto the lot and approached the station.  Clarine was startled when she looked into the station.  Inside she saw a man with his face covered in blood.   There was so much blood that it took her a moment to realize that it was her old friend, Eddie. Concerned, the couple entered the station and switched on the lights.  What they saw amazed them. The station area was covered in blood and so was Eddie. He seemed confused and wandered around the room, holding a brown rag to his head in an attempt to staunch the blood. He didn’t seem to understand how much he was bleeding or how badly he might be injured. He didn’t even seem to hear the buzzing of the burglar alarm in the background.  Eddie told Dick that he had fallen on the railroad tracks and did not need to go to the hospital. The Marshalls helped him lower the hood of his jacket and they saw that there was even more blood than they had realized. The double hoods that Eddie wore had caught a lot of the blood from the head wound. Blood had run down his back between the two layers of clothing.  Bewildered and unsteady, Eddie allowed Marshall to drive him to Oak Hill Hospital.    As soon as his brother, Glen and sister-in-law, Carol Brown got the call they rushed to Oak Hill Hospital to be at his side.

At first, the crime seemed an obvious one. Someone had robbed the service station and attacked the elderly station attendant. Probably just strangers passing through the little community. However, as facts were uncovered, what appeared to be a violent station robbery would turn out to be an attack aimed at Eddie himself.

The first indications of this were in the x-rays taken of his head at Plateau Medical Center.  The doctor told Glen Brown that his brother’s skull looked like a “road map” of holes and fractures. Someone had hit Eddie hard and more than once. When forensic experts examined the x-rays, it was determined that 72 year old Eddie had been struck at least four times with a sharp, pointed object that had punctured his skull with each blow.

At the hospital, Eddie’s clothes were turned over to his family. His sister-in-law found that the approximately $500 that he always carried in his right shirt pocket was missing.  In his other pocket, Carol found a smaller amount of cash that the assailant had missed, the air gauge he used to check tires, and a pen and paper.  Eddie was left-handed and he always kept his money in his right shirt pocket. Whoever had robbed him had apparently gone directly for the right shirt pocket and ignored the left – as if they knew where the money would be.  Eddie Brown made his way to this Service Station even though he was dazed and mortally wounded.

When they completed their examination, physicians found other indications that made it seem unlikely that he had been the victim of an attempted robbery at the station. His knees were bruised and gravel was stuck in the material of his trousers. The fact that the blows had been struck from behind made it likely that the gravel and bruising were a result of him falling to his knees violently when the attack occurred. There was no gravel at the station.

The next morning, more evidence would come to light to support the growing suspicion that the attack had been aimed at Eddie personally. Kincaid residents, Reba Sayers and Patty Miavitz, found Eddie’s flashlight lying on the ground about 75 feet from the Brown property – within sight of the house.   The flashlight had a cracked lens as if it had struck the ground violently.  The Sheriff’s department was called and Officer Everette Steele arrived to take custody of this significant evidence.   He knocked on the door and attempted to speak with Ola but she was not home.

Sheriff William Laird assigned Corporal Everette Steele and Deputy Garland Burke to work fulltime investigating the assault of Eddie Brown. Looking at the evidence, Steele became convinced of one fact- Brown had not been attacked during an attempted robbery of the station. There was no evidence of any disturbance at the station other than that caused by Brown himself as he stumbled confused and bleeding in the darkness. The broken flashlight and the gravel in his knees indicated that the attack had occurred near Eddie’s home – over a mile from the station.

Although Eddie regained consciousness, he was never able to relate what had happened to him that night.  He had no memory of the attack. Investigators were forced to make their own determinations. Based on the evidence, it appeared that Eddie had made the walk to the station following the attack.  Family members were convinced that Eddie had known his assailant. Mr. Brown was a large man in remarkable shape for his age. Although he was known for his kindness, he would have defended himself if he had seen the blow coming. Yet he had no defensive wounds at all. It appeared that someone had struck him from behind in the darkness. Struck him, not once, but four times.

Another question concerned the time frame.  Ola had not noticed exactly what time Eddie left that morning but customarily he left between 2:00 AM and 2:30 AM  in the morning.   Yet Eslie Bills had seen him opening the station at 2:39.   It did not seem possible that the wounded, elderly man could have walked the one and one half miles to the station in less than 30 minutes.    Had someone given him a ride?

And what of the blouse that Eddie was pressing against his scalp in a vain attempt to staunch the flow of blood?    It had been assumed at first that Brown had picked up the nearest scrap of material on hand at the station.  However, the station owner was adamant that the blouse had not been there when he cleaned and closed the station on the night before the attack.   

 

Indeed, the blouse looked nothing like a cleaning rag.  The blouse was of an unusual design and would fit only a very small woman.   The material was silky and would be of little use for cleaning.   Had someone given this to Eddie to use as a bandage? Perhaps in a fit of conscience after realizing the extent of his wounds?

 

 

 

For the next 29 days, Eddie lay in the hospital, weak and helpless. The walls of his hospital room were covered with get-well cards from the schoolchildren who loved and respected him. Neighbors visited and called in a never-ending parade. Yet all the love and attention would not be enough to bring him back to them.  On February 20, 1992, Eddie slipped away to a kinder world. 

For those who remained, the battle was far from over.     The Page/Kincaid community responded admirably to the crime against one of its favorite sons. David Wood, owner of Woods Quick Mart, and Tim Hannah, fire chief, began a drive to fund a reward for anyone providing information concerning the murder. Quarters from schoolchildren mixed with donations from their parents poured in and the fund rapidly reached $2000.  This would be combined with the $5000 offered by the County if anyone would step forward to help the community put it’s grief to rest.


Eddie’s brothers, Glen and Howard, did their best to keep the case active. Naturally quiet and reserved, the two brothers forced themselves to respond to newspaper interviews and pose for photos by Eddie’s grave.    Determined to find justice, they posted reward notices all over the county and contacted authorities regularly.  Meanwhile, the situation in Page and Kincaid continued to worsen. Citizens were nervous and fearful.  Sales of guns and double chains for doors boomed. Ministers expressed concern that someone would be hurt by mistake. State police Trooper D. D. Baker increased his patrols in the area. Like the deputies, he listened for any clue that might put an end to the mystery.

Rumors poured in as quickly as the reward money.  Deputies Steele and Burke were busy tracking down every lead. Community members called regularly with suggestions and ideas. Many suspected the frequent visitors of the party campers near Eddie’s home.  Rumor maintained that one of the regulars had departed for Florida shortly after the attack. Determined to follow every lead, the deputies traveled to Florida to interview the suspect. At first, he tried to avoid them but later met with them and offered proof that he was not in the Page area that night. One by one, the clues led nowhere as the trail grew colder.

For Glen and Howard Brown, the quest for justice continues over 15 years later. Their faces bear evidence of kindness and quiet strength so apparent in the memories of their older brother, Eddie. Yet their eyes have lost the trust and innocence that Eddie seemed to carry with him. Eddie’s nephews, Charlie and Glen Jr. carry on the struggle for justice and closure.

Due to interest in the Eddie Brown case, in the Spring of 2007, the Fayette County Commission agreed to increase the reward money for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person responsible for what is considered an older unsolved murder.

January 22, 1992 was a day of loss for so many.  Schoolchildren lost a protector. Ola, Glen and Howard lost a cherished brother. David Wood and Tim Hannah lost a friend. And a whole town lost its innocence on the day someone murdered Eddie Brown. 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
 
On March 19, 2007, Fayette County Sheriff William R. Larid IV and local author George Bragg approached the Fayette County Commission requesting an increase in the standing reward for resolution of any unsolved murder case in Fayette County.   Commissioners Wender, Lopez and Eskew wholeheartedly agreed and increased the reward for nformation that leads to prosecution and conviction of any unsolved murder in Fayette County from $5,000 to $20,000.   Determination for payment of the award will be made by the Sheriff and the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

WV Law Enforcement Needs Your Help.     If you have information concerning the murder of Eddie Brown, please contact the Fayette County Sehriff`s Department at 304-574-4126  or  Crime Stoppers at  304-255-STOP (7867)    Crime Stoppers will pay a $1,000.00 reward to the Tipster who provides information that leads to the arrest of the person(s) who murdered Eddie Brown.

 

Crime Stoppers would like to thank

 George Bragg & Morgan Bragg

of

  GEM Publications

for the information and pictures provided in this article.   

  To contact GEM Publications in Beaver, WV, call  304-256-8400.    

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8/26/1981 - The Murder of Cynthia Jane Miller / Beckley (Raleigh Co WV) "Till Death Do Us Part"

    Till Death Do Us Part 

           The Murder of Cynthia Jane Miller 

           August 26, 1981

            Beckley, Raleigh County, W. Va

It is a tragedy whenever a life is lost.   However, the tragedy strikes even deeper when the victim is as full of promise as Cynthia Jane Miller who was brutally murdered on the eve of her wedding day.

Full of Promise   In August of 1981, Cynthia Jane Miller appeared to be a woman who had it all.   The twenty-seven year old schoolteacher had completed a Bachelor Degree in Education and a Master Degree in Math from Concord College and thoroughly enjoyed her chosen career.   At 5’8” tall with shoulder length dark hair, she was a pretty woman who was adored by her friends and family. Her winning personality, warm smile, and good-natured sense of humor made her a favorite with every one whoencountered her.

Although the early 1980’s were a time when many young people her age were experimenting with drugs or alcohol, Cynthia seemed to harbor no such curiosity.  She was a deeply religious woman who took her faith seriously and eagerly testified that fact to others. Her most active interest outside her career was her work with the church.   Because of her faith, the previous two years had not been easy ones for Cynthia. In 1979, she had made a difficult decision to seek a divorce from her husband, Michael Cole. Although the divorce was friendly and the couple remained friends, Cynthia felt very badly about the failure of the relationship. 

However, by 1981, she was finally finding reason to look toward the future with anticipation. She had purchased a home at 103 Miller Street in Beckley from her grandfather. The home was near the Park Junior High where she worked and it was a source of additional income from a basement apartment that she had rented out to another young woman named Terry Boland.   Cynthia further supplemented her income by selling Avon.

Cynthia had recently met and fallen in love with Gary O’Neal, a City Policeman in the nearby town of Lester.   Gary had moved in with Cynthia but she was never fully comfortable with the arrangement because of her religious convictions. By the summer of 1981,  Gary and Cynthia had decided to make the ultimate commitment through marriage. To save the confusion of explaining the name change to her students in the middle of the year, Cynthia wanted to get married before school started.  .

Excited and Happy   The wedding date was set for Friday, August 27, 1981. Because they both had been married before, the couple decided against a formal wedding ceremony. Instead, they would say their vows at the Lester City Hall where Gary worked.    That Thursday was a busy one as Cynthia and Gary both worked to finalize the arrangements for the wedding.  They were both nervous because they had set wedding dates before but Cynthia backed out. She was concerned that their differences would be too great for the relationship to work. She had remarked to friends that she was concerned because they often argued.

However, this time the couple was determined to go through with it. They were both convinced that their love was greater than their differences. To make the ceremony special, Gary acquired two dozen long stem roses that he planned to present to his bride to carry during the ceremony. He entrusted the roses to City Hall employee Beverly Snuffer who put them in a cool place so the blooms would last until the ceremony. However, the bride would never see her bouquet. Her next flowers would be those in a funeral wreath for Cynthia would not live to see her wedding day.

Cynthia spent the day tying up loose ends on her two jobs so that she could relax over her wedding weekend.   Early that morning, she traveled to Park Junior High School to put the finishing touches on painting her desk in preparation for the upcoming school year. She finished by noon and was on time for a doctor’s appointment that afternoon.   Following her doctor’s appointment, she returned home and worked at straightening the house until almost 4:00 p.m.   However, it was too important a day to remain occupied with mundane housekeeping chores.   She was excited about her wedding the next day and wanted to share that excitement with her loved ones.

With that in mind, she visited her father at his job at the Montgomery Ward Warehouse in Mabscott. She spent about an hour chatting with her father about the wedding plans. Before she left, she asked his help with some repairs to the garage door of her home. After work, her father traveled to the house and repaired the door. At 6:30 he left after promising yet again to be on time for the wedding the next morning.

Cynthia went to work sorting out her Avon orders.  She did not want any chores to distract her from her first weekend as a newlywed. Gary O’Neal also arrived home shortly after 7:00 p.m. After being home for about an hour, he decided to visit his father in Princeton. The groom was also excited about the upcoming wedding and eager to discuss it with his family. Cynthia expressed an interest in going with him and then reconsidered. She really wanted to get her Avon orders out of the way before the wedding. Gary left around 8:20 and told Cynthia to expect him home at 11:30.

Terry Boland, who lived in the basement apartment,  was visiting her parents that evening but she returned home around 8:30. When Terry arrived home, the gate was closed and the dog was running loose. As Boland opened the gate, Cynthia called out and asked her to leave the gate open so that she could bring the dog in.  When Terry tried the door, she had a problem with her keys so she asked Cynthia to open the door for her.  Cynthia was in a good mood and full of excitement concerning her upcoming wedding. The bride told her that Gary had gone to Princeton to visit his father. Around 9:00, Boland took a load of laundry into the washroom she shared with Cynthia and Gary.   However, she found that her landlady already had a load of clothes in the dryer that still had a while to dry. Terry decided to go on to bed and wash her clothes in the morning. After she lay down, Terry heard footsteps as Cynthia returned to the laundry room to check the dryer.  Apparently, the school teacher put a load of clothes in the basement washer and returned to work on her Avon orders because she telephoned her Avon manager around 9:00 to discuss some problems with the orders. The two ladies chatted for about 30 minutes. The Avon manager sincerely liked the young teacher and that night Cynthia was especially bubbly and full of excitement about her upcoming wedding. By the time the two friends ended their conversation, it was around 9:20.  Gary tried to call Cynthia around 9:30 to let her know that he would be late returning home but the telephone rang on unanswered. He also tried her mother’s house and was told that she had probably left to deliver her Avon orders.

Meanwhile, Beckley City Police received an anonymous telephone call reporting that shots or firecrackers had been heard on E Street at the top of the hill toward the Fayette Street side, near the Miller residence.  In her basement apartment, Terry Boland slept undisturbed.

 

Gruesome Homecoming  At 11:35, Terry was awoken by a telephone call from her father. His car had broken down and he asked Terry to come and give him a ride. Terry quickly dressed and left, not returning until almost 1:00 a.m.

Gary O’Neal was becoming frantic with worry about his fiancée. He had tried repeatedly throughout the evening to reach her. When she did not answer the telephone by 11:35, his concern deepened. Knowing that she expected him home by 11:30, it was unlike her to be gone at that time. He kept trying to telephone her with no success. He was confused that his bride would disappear without warning and stay out so late on the night before their wedding. By midnight, his worry had overcome him and he left his father’s house to return home.  In this time before cell phones, he was forced to stop several times along the way to try the telephone again.  Gary was relieved when he arrived home to see Cynthia’s car in the driveway. He assumed that she had been gone and had just returned home. However, one thing was out of the ordinary. Cynthia always left the porch light on for him if he was gone at night and this time the porch was shrouded in darkness. He had to strike his lighter to find the door key.

As Gary O’Neal turned his key in the lock that night, he had no way of knowing that he was transcending his role in life from police officer to victim. For when he opened the door, he saw his bride lying on the floor before him.

The thought that his bride had been murdered was so far out of the realm of possibility that it took O’Neal several moments to accept it. At first, he thought that perhaps she was joking. Then that possibly she had broken her vow against drinking to celebrate their wedding and was simply passed out. O’Neal set down the package in his hands and knelt beside Cynthia, putting his hand beneath her head to help turn her over. When he did, he withdrew his hand in horror. For the back of Cynthia’s head was covered in blood. Screaming in panic, he turned her body over and attempted to administer CPR but it was too late. He rushed to the telephone and called 911 requesting an ambulance. He then returned to his fiancée and attempted to revive her or find any trace of a heartbeat.

A series of well-trained reactions went into motion the instant that the 911 call came in to the Emergency Operations Center of the Beckley Police Department.  At 12.45, an ambulance was dispatched to the scene followed closely by patrolman M. R. Robinson.  Officers and medical technicians were on duty at the house within moments. It was immediately obvious that this was no false alarm. An excited, barefoot Gary O’Neal was waiting to guide them to the victim.  When ambulance drivers and police entered the house, they found the body of Cynthia Miller lying about two feet inside the doorway. She was wearing a pair of blue jeans and a t-shirt bearing a computer printout of her and her fiancée and the words, “Summer of ‘81” you & me.

Medical technicians could do nothing to help the young almost bride. Although her body retained the warmth of life, the laughing, loving woman who had been Cynthia Miller was gone forever. The damage to her face was so extreme that officers at first assumed she had been bludgeoned to death. Upon closer investigation, it was determined that she had been shot four times – once in the shoulder, once in the ear, once in the top of her head and once in the throat. It was more than just a murder. It was a brutal slaughter.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS    Investigators began an intense search of the home as soon as the body was removed for transport to the State Medical Examiner’s office. However, nothing was found that could give them any clue as to the identity of the murderer. Nothing in the house appeared disturbed. There were no signs of forced entry and no signs of a struggle. The murderer of Cynthia Miller had committed his grisly handiwork and then disappeared without a trace.

On September 2, Beckley Police Department Lt. Cole and Detective Pack consulted Dr. Jamil Ahmed of Raleigh General Hospital. As County Coroner, Dr. Ahmed had been the first physician to examine the body.   Ahmed stated that in his opinion, Cynthia had died at approximately 9:30 p.m.  Chief Medical Examiner in Charleston,  Irvin Sopher,  agreed with Dr. Ahmed that the shooting probably occurred around 9:30 and that Cynthia fell immediately into a coma and then died within 30 minutes of that time.

The autopsy report provided little new information to investigators but they did learn more about the shots that had taken the life of the young woman. Two of the four shots had been contact wounds, which meant that the murderer had placed the gun directly against her head before firing. The other two shots had also been fired within 21 inches of her. These were not shots fired in anger from a distance. This was the work of a coldblooded murderer who fired repeatedly at close range.

The time itself was confusing.  Terry Boland, who lived downstairs in the house, stated that she was home until 11:40. She admitted that there was an open vent leading from the upstairs down to her apartment and that she could hear normal conversation upstairs. The only sounds she heard on the night of the murder were the phone ringing once and Cynthia walking around upstairs.    Why didn’t she hear the four gunshots at 9:30?  To test the question, investigators returned to the home on Miller Ave. and fired several shots at the location of Cynthia’s death with a 25 caliber automatic. Officers in place downstairs in Boland’s apartment agreed that the shots were very loud in the apartment. So loud, in fact, that Boland would probably have heard them even if she were asleep. Yet Boland was at home at 9:30.   However, she was gone from 11:40 until about the same time that police arrived. Was it possible that Cynthia was killed later than they believed?

Investigators spent the next few months conducting interviews of everyone who had any connection to the case. Although an enormous file of details was compiled, it did not contain the one clue that would lead to the murderer.

 

“Overkill”     In April 1982, Beckley Chief of Police Thomas Durrett contacted the Behavior Science Unit of the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia to request a psychological profile in the homicide case. Officials from the BSU responded within a month but their insights were more disturbing than helpful. Specialist emphasized that they lacked enough information to compile a full profile but they did offer these psychological theories concerning the murderer of Miller:

1. The victim knew her killer very well.    2. The victim had recently rejected her killer.     3. The number of gunshot wounds to the victim’s  head is a sign of overkill, as well as anger, on the part of  the perpetrator.   4. It was very likely in a case like this that the perpetrator has already been interviewed by police authorities and appeared to be extremely cooperative.    5. The perpetrator would appear to be distraught over the victim’s death. This was not merely role-playing.    While he hated the victim at the time of the murder, he also loved her very much.

It has now been over a quarter of a century since the murder of Cynthia Jane Miller. Most of the investigators in her case have retired and tried to put the violence behind them. However, new officers continue to search for answers in the case of the bride that someone loved to death.

Corporal Paul Blume with Beckley City Police Department has continued theinvestigation into the murder of Cynthia Miller as recently as 2006.

 

      Many thanks to George Bragg with GEM Publications for this story.  To reach GEM Publications and purchase "Cold Case Homicides" you may call GEM Publications at 256-8400   or email gemphoto@suddenlink.net.

 

 

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