It's no secret I have been looking forward to TNT's new reality crime series, "Cold Justice". I really admire former prosecutor Kelly Siegler and that initially drew me to the show, but now that I've seen two full episodes, it really appears Kelly Siegler, Yolanda McClary and Johnnie Bonds can make an impact and bring closure to some of these long suffering crime victims.
In episode 2, Siegler and McClary traveled to Collingston Louisiana - I believe they said the population there was less than 400 people. That's definitely small town USA. They wanted to look into the August 26, 2006 unsolved murder of 67 year old Mattie Williams. Williams was a mother of thirteen children, and she now has such a large extended family that Siegler and the team had to meet with them in a local church. It was sad to see how many people this crime effected, and how they are haunted to this day that her killer has gone unpunished.
By all appearances, Mattie Williams lived a modest life and was a well liked church going woman who was known to help people in need. Her murder looks like a robbery gone very bad, her blood was found in certain areas of her small home but larger smears of her blood was found on the outside of her home. The blood outside her house caused a concerned friend to contact the police back in 2006. Inside the home, Mattie's purse was found on the floor, turned inside out and signs of a struggle were obvious. Her body was found 3 miles away, she died from stab wounds to her neck and she was hit on the head with an object that left a distinctive mark on her head. Another key piece of evidence recovered from the inside of Mattie Williams house was a pay stub belonging to Renwick Jackson.
Siegler, McClary and former detective Johnnie Bonds went back to the crime scene after reviewing the case file thoroughly, and they came up with what they believed was the most likely scenario of how this crime unfolded. During their meeting with the family, they were told that Mattie would not open her door to someone she did not know. There were several persons of interest in this case, one of which was one of Mattie's own sons. Family members appeared conflicted or split on whether they believed their brother could have been involved in a robbery plot - but they found it difficult to think that he could stand by as his mother was being assaulted. Stealing is one thing, assault and murder are another.
One thing they decided after visiting the home and the area where Mattie's body was eventually found - Mattie Williams was most likely alive when she was taken from her home. The slashes to her neck tell a story. Had she been stabbed in the neck in her home, there would have been distinctive blood evidence in or around her home. Rather, there was blood pooling found where her body was dumped which seems to point to Mattie being assaulted in her home, taken by force to the remote location and then she was fatally stabbed and died in the field where they found her. How could something like this happen to a decent, good hearted, church going mother? Who could be so desperate to steal whatever little money Mattie may have had in her purse or in her house and then kill her?
It seems likely she was killed because she knew the man or men who were robbing her and they feared being identified. I can think of no other reason. An early suspect in this investigation was a 52 year old man named Renwick Jackson. He reportedly lived across the railroad tracks from Mattie Williams, and she knew him and may have opened the door to him, although family members were split on this issue. Mattie reportedly didn't trust Renwick Jackson. Jackson was an early suspect for numerous reasons - a pay stub with Renwick Jackson's name on it was found in the home of Mattie Williams. Witnesses reported seeing Renwick Jackson and Stanley Mitchell together in the neighborhood the day of the killing. That could be explained away since Renwick lived nearby.
Suspicions were raised when it was discovered that Renwick Jackson power washed the inside of the car he was known to drive at the time of this murder. Renwick's own sister told law enforcement that she thought it was highly unusual and suspicious when he asked her to help clean the car. She told police Renwick "wildly" power washed the entire interior of that car, including the ceiling. Renwick told her, and later the police that he cleaned the car because his employer had asked him to. However, when Johnnie Bonds re interviewed Renwick's employer he denied ever asking him to clean his car and denied having ever been in Renwick's car.
Williams told investigators he was working on the day of the murder. His employers records show that Renwick was not working on any project for the company on the day in question, he was a salaried employee and they hadn't given him any assignments on that day. It would take more than 2 lies to catch Renwick Jackson. Stanley Mitchell was another early suspect in the investigation. Mitchell was a friend of Williams, as was Mattie's son John Williams. Johnny Bonds and another detective known to be a master interrogator re interviewed Mitchell and Renwick. A big break in this case came when a jailhouse informant provided a tip that Stanley Mitchell had told him he was involved in the robbery and murder. Mitchell told the inmate that he hit Mattie on the head with a brick he found on the side of Mattie's home. Siegler, McClary and Bonds revisited the crime scene photos and they got a big break when an oddly shaped brick was seen in the photos. Could this be "the brick"?
The team went back to Mattie's house to look for overlooked evidence, in particular they wanted to see if that brick shown in crime scene photos was still there. To their surprise, they found a brick that looked an awful lot like the brick in the photos. They collected it and sent it to the crime lab for analysis. Could an overlooked brick left out in the elements for 7 years yield any DNA, fingerprints or other blood evidence? It was a long shot. McClary took the brick, and acting on a hunch she traced parts of the brick to see if she could match it up to that distinctive mark that was left on Mattie's head. Using a pencil and a sheet of paper, she made a crude tracing and the results were shocking. It looked an awful lot like the mark on Mattie's head. The team decided to write up their findings and take it to the DA to see if they had enough probable cause to arrest the pair. The DA didn't believe it was enough, and he asked them to keep working.
This is where the interrogations played a key role in breaking the case wide open. Johnnie Bonds and former detective Armando Perez brought in Stanley Mitchell for another (voluntary) interview, Mitchell gave up nothing. He never implicated himself, and when Bonds and Perez confronted him with the statements made by the confidential (jailhouse) informant, Mitchell downplayed it. They then showed him photos of the brick and told him they had recovered that same brick and sent it to the crime lab. Mitchell insisted his fingerprints or DNA would not be found on the brick. Did he use gloves?
Bonds and Perez had one last shot at getting some type of admission when they invited Renwick Jackson in for an interview. Renwick came in voluntarily, and they needed to tread lightly since Renwick was free to leave at any time. They confronted Renwick with his whereabouts on the day of the crime and asked him why he power washed the interior of his car. Renwick continued telling the same story he had originally told investigators, that he cleaned his car after his boss asked him why he didn't keep it cleaner, and his alibi was that he was at work on the day in question. Johnnie Bonds told him he suspected he was not being truthful, and told him about the conversation he had with his employer and his own sister. Bonds stuck to his story. It seemed he would not implicate himself - Bonds stepped out of the room for a moment and consulted with the team, who were watching the interview from another room via video feed. Armando Perez wanted a shot at Renwick Jackson. His role was of the good cop. He tried to befriend Renwick, attempting to minimize his possible involvement in the crime and the murder.
His strategy worked. After discussing their suspicions about Stanley Mitchell, including the statements provided by the jailhouse informant with Renwick Jackson, Jackson finally admitted something he had never admitted during any prior interview with the police. He admitted he was there at the crime scene. He placed himself outside of the house, almost to the point where he was in his car, but he described the role John Williams allegedly played in the robbery ploy that ended in murder. Williams knocked on his mother's door, she answered the door but didn't initially let him in. Mattie asked "who's out there with you"? At some point, Mitchell strong armed his way into the house and hit Mattie on the head with the brick. Jackson described things that were being said inside the house at the time of the chaotic assault - two things were becoming clear to the investigators. Number one: Renwick Jackson could not have seen or heard the things he reported had he been near or inside of his car. It's just not possible. He was closer to the home, he may have even been inside the house and possibly was involved in the assault. Number two: John Williams was there, and he played some part in the robbery - even if he didn't participate in the actual assault or murder - he was involved. That will be a hard pill for the family to swallow.
Renwick Jackson admitted to Armando Perez that Mattie Williams was forced into his car. The detectives had managed to get Jackson to place three people at Mattie's house, participating in the robbery in varying degrees. His admissions were relayed to the District Attorney while Jackson was still at the police station. The DA now agreed they had enough probably cause to arrest Renwick Jackson. He was arrested on the spot. This was an incredible thing to watch - prior to their involvement in the cold case, local law enforcement only had their suspicions about the involvement of Mattie Williams son John Williams. This was the first statement ever given to law enforcement that Williams was there. It makes sense - it fits. It seems unlikely that Mattie would have opened the door to Renwick Jackson OR Stanley Mitchell. But it appears she opened it for her son, which turned out to be a fatal mistake.
A news story reported on July 2, 2013 announced the three had been indicted on second degree murder. They face mandatory life sentences if convicted. The story does not state if they are being charged with robbery and/or kidnapping, but it seems they should be given they appeared to have taken Williams from her home injured but she was alive. How very sad. How much could they have possibly gained monetarily by robbing this loving mother and friend of the community? It just all seems so senseless. I honestly think this team is in this for all of the right reasons. Not for television fame or fortune, but for the victims. Kudos to Siegler, McClary, Bonds and Perez. Well done, TNT. Cold Justice seems to be the real deal.