In the spring of 1999, the solving of the Columbus, Miss., murders was complicated by another investigation. After an FBI investigation, Chief Freshour was accused of embezzling $4,400 from a fund earmarked for solving the murders.
Harold Dow reports.
Freshour, 51, gave the money to a girlfriend, Aimee Morgan Nabors. A mother of three, Nabors said that she had a sexual relationship with Freshour, who is married.
Pressured by the FBI, Nabors, 32, wore a wire and taped Freshour. Facing that evidence, Freshour pleaded guilty to conspiracy and embezzlement. On June 18, 1999, he was sentenced to eight months in prison. Said Freshour: "Even though I'm [chief of police], I'm still human, and I screwed up."
He has now finished his sentence and is doing construction work.
Some residents, including prosecutor Dennis Harmon, think that the police may have bungled the murder investigation.
Freshour himself even admitted the crime scenes were trampled on and tainted.
"The biggest problem is that there was not enough time, not enough people," Dennis Harmon said. "Overtime was being limited; the number of detectives was being limited."
Another man, Billy Pickens, was promoted to chief. He came from within the police department with the mission of trying to clean it up. Pickens began by focusing on the murders. He reassigned the chief homicide detective and put a patrol lieutenant in charge of the murder investigation.
Pickens believed only two of the five crimes scenes similar, and thinks that there are actually several killers. "I feel like we only have two that are actually connected, Mrs. Everett and Mrs. Randall," he said.
Since the last of the five murders in 1998, there have been no more murders matching the pattern. Grady Randall, the son of victim Louise Randall, has been questioned several times, but has never been charged with anything. According to Pickens, Grady Randall took a polygraph test and passed. Pickens is not now a strong suspect, police say.
"I don't know if they'll ever be able to find [the murderers] at this late date," said Ellen Smith, who learned to shoot and now keeps a gun under her pillow at night. "I've kind of given up on it."
So did someone get away with murder? "Well," Smith said, "probably five of them to be exact."