“....we feel certain we know
who killed her.”
Metro homicide Captain Mickey Miller
Cops live in a different world than most of us. They know life can go wrong. Twenty-nine years ago, on Nov. 29, 1969, it went horribly wrong for 12-year-old Kathy Jones. Homicide Captain Mickey Miller understands this all too well.
Miller is a robust, no-nonsense guy. His office in the Criminal Justice Center, filled with personal photographs, mystery novels, and crime reference books, is dominated by a floor-to-ceiling bookcase jammed with black, three-inch binders. He rises to his feet, and pulls one out.
“It was one of the most brutal child murders I’ve ever seen,” Miller says, speaking of the Jones killing. “[This] will give you a feel for how atrocious this one was.”
The first several pages of the binder are lie detector tests, complete with folded polygraph paper. Then come the photos.
Black and white, eight by ten. Stark and cold. A dead 12-year-old girl.
Short blonde hair. Naked in the weeds, lying on her right side, back bent, arms tied behind her with plaid cloth. Her eyes are slightly open, and her head is pushed far back, her blouse tied around her mouth and neck. Her throat has several almond shaped cuts. There is a puncture wound below her small left breast. Blood is here and there.
Kathy’s bare white back rises from the weeds. Her right leg is straight; her left knee is drawn almost to her waist. The savagery of the sexual attack, which apparently involved both vaginal and anal penetration, is appalling. Her buttocks are nearly black from the bruises.
What clothes weren’t used to bind and gag her are crumpled beside her, including a little glove with a checkered, Christmasy design. Her coat lies in front of her, and her white underwear are wadded on the ground against her chest.
Scattered on the grass are her purse and a deck of her playing cards. Beside her thigh, on its wheels, ready to be picked up and put on, is a clean, white, leather roller skate.
In the crime scene photograph, it looks brand new.
Miller knows about those skates. “They were used rollerskates,” he says, “but to Kathy, they were new and were the most important thing in her life. A cousin had given them to her and she was thrilled she had them. She wanted to go skating that night and had to walk from Lutie Street up to the skating rink.”
The skating rink was the Roller Drome, now the site of an H.H. Gregg, at 523 Thompson Lane. It was only a 20-minute walk from Kathy’s white clapboard house at 304 Lutie St. “We’ve got several people that remember seeing her walking and carrying her little skates with her,” Miller says. “We’re not sure she ever arrived at the skating rink. She disappeared.”
Earlier that Saturday night, Jones’ mother, Nora Jones, had given Kathy a dollar to spend at Krispy Kreme, a block from the Roller Drome. Kathy left home at approximately 7:45 p.m. As she later told The Tennessean, Nora, now deceased, said, “She started out and then she came over and kissed me and said, ‘Thank you mother. Thank you for the dollar.’ And then, oh Lord, then she went out the door.”
When she did not return home, police were notified. For 24 hours, Kathy was listed as missing, and it was thought she may have run away. Her mother insisted otherwise.
What happened to Kathy during the 36 hours after she left her house is numbing to consider. She died sometime around noon on Monday, Dec. 1; her brutalized body was found a day later, in a grassy lot behind the Krispy Kreme. According to a coroner’s report, she had been viciously raped. The official cause of death, the coroner stated, was suffocation. A funeral home attendant found one of her bobbie socks, cut in half and stuffed down her throat.
Detective Charles Mills remembers getting a call from a Civil Defense worker who had discovered the body. “When I arrived on the scene...the body was laying in a patch of weedy field, about waist high,” says Mills, who is a white-haired, soft-featured man well into retirement. Mills, who is still pained by the recollections of the murder, says the case “got to me because she was from a very poor family. I never got the kid’s looks off my mind, with her laying there in those weeds.... I don’t see how a person could murder a young girl like that.”
Mills says that when the major in charge arrived on the scene, he and Detective Claude Chamberlain were assigned to work on the case. “Claude and I worked continually on this case for about six months. Then we went back on regular assignment. Every chance we got, we would jump back on the case. We worked it for nine years every chance we got.”
For nine years, Mills and Chamberlain came up empty-handed. Then they found a suspect: the skating-rink bus driver, Edward Warner Adcox. He was in jail at the time on an unrelated charge. “We talked a known felon into letting us arrest him on a trumped up charge, and put him in the jail cell [with the suspect],” Mills says. “He says [Adcox] told him how he killed her.”
In 1977, Mills and Chamberlain arrested Adcox, and Judge Gale Robinson bound the case over to the Grand Jury. But, according to Mills, the District Attorney did not think he had enough evidence to take the case before the Grand Jury. “We thought we did, and that was neither here nor there. The DA said we didn’t.”
The charges were dismissed and, by 1979, both Detectives Mills and Chamberlain had retired.
But Kathy Jones was not forgotten. Captain Miller, who has been with the police department for 22 years, began work on the case while investigating the Marcia Trimble murder. Trimble was a 9-year-old Girl Scout who was killed in 1975 while delivering Girl Scout cookies in a Green Hills neighborhood. Her murder remains unsolved.
“We had just started looking at DNA evidence possibilities in the Marcia Trimble case,” Miller says, “when an aunt of Kathy’s called and was crying on the phone to see if we could do something about her little niece. I went down and pulled the reports and put a file together. We started looking at it, because of this aunt’s plea.”
Miller continues. “We felt like it was something we definitely had to look at. Particularly when you look at the total brutality involved. Whoever did this was a vicious and vile creature.”
As Miller reviewed the evidence, he took another look at the skating-rink bus driver. “He was a person who had been suspected of child molesting, and had been charged on one other occasion with that. He looked like a good suspect at the time.” So Miller, Lt. Tommy Jacobs, and Detective E.J. Bernard interrogated the suspect, who agreed to cooperate with the investigation. They soon concluded he was not involved in the Jones murder.
Miller said Adcox admitted to a lot of things he had done over the years, but the Jones killing wasn’t one of them. In addition, Miller says he and other detectives began developing some information on another subject.
“Myself and Detective Postiglione started going through the files and looking into the evidence and actually ran some polygraphs.”
The evidence they uncovered, Miller believes, is solid. So solid, in fact, that it led to the killer. Miller cannot say what that evidence is. “At this point in time, we feel certain we know who killed her.... This man is living in Nashville and works every day.”
Because there was no medical examiner at the time of Jones’ death, no autopsy was performed. There was no such thing as DNA testing either, and blood tests were rarely used. As a result, little physical evidence was taken from the crime scene.
While that makes the investigation difficult, it does not make it impossible. “We haven’t completely given up on the case.” Miller says. “We’re hoping someone will come forward with a little information that will help us bring him to justice.”
Then Miller discusses the grim essence of his story. “There is at least one person who we have tried to get to talk to us who could possibly provide us with enough information to get this guy, but I’m not sure they’re ever going to feel comfortable in doing that.”
According to numerous police officers, an unsolved murder, particularly that of a child, eats at the investigating officer long after the case goes inactive. “They never close those cases out.” says Assistant Chief of Police Deborah Faulkner. “We don’t ever forget. We revisit them from time to time and review them and see if there is something else we can do. They’re haunting. The people who eat, drink, and sleep those cases never get over it. It never leaves their heart or soul.”
Child murders are very difficult to solve. Most of the killers don’t go around talking about it like they do in other types of cases. It is a fear partly rooted in the fact that other people who are involved in criminal activity are revolted by child molesters.
Oftentimes, according to Miller, child killers “don’t see what they did as wrong and they don’t really care. A lot of these type offenders look at these children as objects; they’re there for their use. It’s so sad. A child has not had the opportunity to see what they could have been, or experience life, because it’s been cut short by some worthless human being.”
For Miller, the case against the man he thinks killed Kathy Jones is extremely frustrating. The suspect is here, close at hand. “I saw him about two months ago,” says Miller. “I keep in touch with him and let him know that we won’t go away. I would love to think he’ll feel guilty and confess, but a lot of these people don’t have a conscience.”
Miller says he has impressed upon the suspect that the police are not giving up. He says he told him, “Don’t get comfortable.”
“The last time I talked to him,” Miller says, “he smiled at me and walked away.”