It’s only natural for someone to seek justice when a loved one is taken from them. Fortunately the justice system achieves this more often than not, all it takes is a little time. Though sometimes the system fails and grieving loved ones are forced to wait years or decades, sometimes never finding justice at all…
For the past 28 years, the families of two victims, and the town where the 1990 Labor Day Murder was committed, have never gotten closure as the case went unsolved and the killer was never brought to justice. Recently, however, that all changed thanks to a simple DNA test.
Helping Out A Friend
On the evening of Labor Day in 1990, 65-year-old Betty Jones had gone over to visit her friend at her home at 306 Highway 82 E. in Starkville, Mississippi. Her friend, 81-year-old Kathryn Crigler, hadn’t been feeling well, so Jones went to help take care of Crigler, who she knew through church.
Giving Back to The Community
According to Jones’ step-grandson, who was just 10 years old at the time, it didn’t surprise him that Jones had been over Crigler’s house that September evening. Not only was she friends with the 81-year-old, but Jones would often volunteer time taking care of people in the community who were ill.
A Knock at The Door
That night, Jones had been helping Crigler get ready for bed when they heard a knock at the front door. Crigler couldn’t answer the door since her leg had been amputated and she was already in bed. So Jones offered to go answer it. The women hadn’t been expecting company and it was especially unusual since it was late for someone to visit. However, Jones decided to answer the door anyway. In the days and weeks that followed, police and people throughout the community wondered why Jones made that ill-fated decision.
One theory was that Jones may have recognized whoever was at the door that evening and so didn’t think there was any danger in letting the person inside. The other theory was that Jones didn’t have any reason not to trust the stranger since they lived in a safe, small town.
A Different Time
“You left your doors opened and didn’t lock your car. It was just a different time,” Jason B. Jones, Jones’ grandson, told the Clarion Ledger. Jones had no idea at the time but the person on the other side of the door was incredibly dangerous. When the 65-year-old answered the door, however, she instantly regretted it.
After the door was opened, the person forced themselves inside and quickly slashed Jones’ throat with a knife. According to Jason, his step-grandmother bled out almost immediately. The attacker left Jones on the floor and then moved on to his next victim.
A Violent Rape
The assailant discovered Crigler in her bed in the back bedroom. Because of her condition, Crigler couldn’t even try to escape or fight back. Instead of slitting her throat, however, the attacker raped the ill 81-year-old. During the rape, which was incredibly violent, several of Crigler’s bones were broken.
Left For Dead
Once the attacker was finished, they locked the door of the house and left Crigler in her bedroom to die from her injuries. However, Crigler managed to drag herself down the hallway from her bedroom to the kitchen where the house telephone was. After she made it into the kitchen, Crigler pulled the cord of her rotary phone until it fell down. Crigler asked the operator to connect her to 911. Not long after, officers responded to the call and rushed over to the 81-year-old’s home.
Treating The Survivor
Once they arrived, the responding officers had to kick Crigler’s front door down since the attacker had locked it. Once inside, they discovered Jones’ bloody body and Crigler lying on the floor of her kitchen. Thankfully, Crigler was still alive and they rushed her to the hospital.
After The Attack
Crigler was treated for her injuries and a rape kit was performed. After her time in the hospital, Crigler was sent to a nursing home. Tragically, however, the trauma from the attack was too much for her to bear. Just a few months later, Crigler passed away from her injuries and the severe depression that resulted from the assault.
The Investigation Begins
Authorities quickly started investigating the murder and sexual assault, which rocked the normally quiet and safe community. A DNA profile had been developed from the rape kit, however, DNA testing wasn’t very common at the time and investigators didn’t have many other leads to go on. Sadly, investigators found few clues at the crime scene to help guide their search for the killer. According to authorities, the most memorable thing at the crime scene was how much blood there was everywhere. Over the following months, police focused in on several suspects.
The Case Goes Cold
Yet investigators could never prove any of the suspects were actually guilty of committing the crime. Eventually, the police ran out of leads and the case went cold. However, the families of the victims and the police never gave up hope that justice would be served. Sgt. Bill Lott from the Starkville Police Department worked on the case from 1998 until 2009 when he left the force to serve in Afghanistan with the military.
A Dedicated Officer
When Lott got back, he was assigned to patrol but begged to be put back on the cold case. “I said, ‘Bill, I don’t know if we can do it because we’re so short — I don’t know if we have the manpower to do it,’” Police Chief Frank Nichols told The Commerical Dispatch. “He says, ‘I’ll do it on my time off. … When I get off from doing my regular job, I’ll work the cold case. For free.’”
28 Years Later
28 years after the grisly murder and assault were committed, that persistence finally paid off. After the Starkville Police Department sent off dozens of DNA samples to Scales Labs, a match to the DNA developed from Crigler’s rape kit came back as a match. According to the police, the matching DNA came from 52-year-old Michael Devaughn’s cigarette.
At the time, Devaughn has been in jail for an unrelated drug charge. After the match was confirmed, they charged him with capital murder and sexual battery. He received a $10 million dollar bond for the murder charge and an additional $1 million bond for the sexual battery charge. If found guilty of murder, Devaughn faces a life sentence.
An Unexpected Suspect
“I have known his family all my life and known him ever since he was a child,” Prentiss County Sheriff Randy Tolar told The Daily Journal after news broke about DeVaughn’s arrest. “His extended family comes from the same area where I was raised. Not a soul around here ever suspected anything about him (in connection with such a brutal crime). He comes from a good family but sometimes people make bad choices. You can’t always tell.”
Announcing The Killer
“Kathryn and Betty were strong women,” Lott said at a press conference after devoting years of his life to the case.”They were leaders in their community. Kathryn was an elder in her church, the Presbyterian church. She was well involved in the community. (Betty) helped refugees. … With it being (Betty’s) birthday, it’s really special to be announcing the arrest of her killer.”
An Emotional Moment Decades In The Making
“We’re very emotional. We’re very thankful to the service of the Starkville Police Department and their decades-long dedication to this case. We are overwhelmed at the possibility that Betty and Katherine may finally have the justice that they deserve,” Jason, who started a podcast called Knock Knock with his younger brother about the case, told The Commercial Dispatch.
Finally Getting Justice
“This is the time for us remember her and remember the life she led, rather than remembering how she died,” Jason said. “As I turned 5 and 6 and 7, this guy really was the boogeyman,” Simon Jones, who was just four years old when his step-grandma was killed, told The Commercial Dispatch.
Facing The Boogeyman
“He was the boogeyman who was never caught. Once I understood murder, I realized that he did this with no consequence and vanished, and now he’s out and about — which as a kid, means he’s everywhere. Fast forward a few decades, and I see this guy on my phone and on TV and he’s just a sad-looking dude with recent drug charges. That takes away so much of the power that this unnamed person had when you finally see their face,” Simon added.
Suspect In ‘Labor Day’ Crimes Found And Arrested 28 Years Later Thanks to DNA Testing is an article from: LifeDaily