Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Mystery Couple

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If you have any information about this case, call Sumter County Coroner Verna Moore at her office (803) 436.2111 or on her beeper (803)778.3613

Authorities ponder if today's technology might have helped solve the crime.

Who were the two young people found shot to death near Interstate 95 off a dark, secluded Sumter County dirt road in 1976?

Who killed them and why? Did the killer act alone or did more than one person have a hand in their deaths?

Local authorities familiar with the case say every effort has been made over the years to answer those questions. They say investigators followed every clue and exhausted every lead. They talked to the psychics who contacted them. They even interviewed convicted serial killers Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole, both drifters.

''At that time, I think Lucas was admitting to every murder (across the country) that had taken place, and he later retracted his story," said retired Sumter County Chief Deputy Bobby McGehee, who was a deputy in 1976. ''Toole was so crazy, nobody could make heads or tails out of what he said.''

Both men are now dead.

The Interstate 95 killings received national attention in 1995, when the case was featured on ''Unsolved Mysteries.'' Sumter County Coroner Verna Moore had tried for years to get the television show's producers to do the story.

The segment generated more than 200 calls. Moore checked out every one, but learned nothing that authorities could use.

In fact, investigators seem no closer today to solving the double murder mystery than they were 28 years ago.

''There were numerous manhours expended as well as expense, and we still don't know who they are or who was responsible for their deaths,'' said Sumter County Sheriff Tommy Mims, who was an investigator at the time of the killings.

"The biggest obstacle is the inability to identify,'' Mims said. ''Without that knowledge, you have no background information to develop. You don't have a starting point.''

Some officials wonder whether the case would have been solved by now if today's advanced technology had been available 28 years ago.

''I feel like we used every source then and throughout the years at our disposal to get the information out,'' Mims said. "That would be a big question mark: If today's technology would have advanced the identification process.''

"I feel like it would have,'' Moore said. ''We've got their fingerprints and their dental records. We've got a good composite drawing of them. I feel like if the Internet had been available back then, someone would have posted information about them and identified them that way.''

The Internet is just one valuable tool that can assist officials today in solving cases and disseminating information.

There's also DNA (genetic material) testing, which also wasn't available, as well as widespread media coverage.

There is a greater chance today that the interstate killings would have gotten more publicity through the Internet and 24-hour cable news channels.

The Chandra Levy case has received heavy news coverage on cable news networks. The television networks and morning news programs also have been relentless in their coverage on the missing Washington, D.C., intern.

Paul Bresson, a spokesman for the FBI in Washington, said modern technology is one of the best tools law enforcement has, but information stored in computer data banks is only useful when properly stored, maintained and accessed.

''Technology has evolved to the point of where we are better than we were, but that's not to say all missing persons cases are solved,'' he said.

Before computerization, people had to keep paper records that could easily be lost or destroyed. But computer records or disks, if not properly maintained, can also be vulnerable.

''Technology advancement doesn't mean records are more retrievable,'' Bresson said. ''Technology tends to be neutral in a lot of ways. There still has to be proper record keeping.''

Law enforcement agencies also must network and utilize files in central computer data banks.

The FBI, for example, maintains an unidentified persons file that has about 4,000 entries. Law enforcement agencies across the country can submit information and cross reference material.

Many of the entries were made following airplane crashes or other catastrophes when authorities were unable to match body parts found at the scenes.

The longer a case remains unsolved, the more difficult it becomes to solve.

''The only thing we can hope for now is, anyone who knew them or was responsible for the deaths might have a troubled conscience and want to get that off their chest before they leave this world,'' Mims said.

 

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