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Cold Justice Team Helps Solve Another Cold Case - Willie Louise Kellum Homicide

Markis Heard
Chalk up another one for TNT's Cold Justice team.  In episode 2 of Season 2, Kelly Siegler, Yolanda McClary and the team headed to Camp Hill Alabama - population 900, to review the 2005 unsolved homicide of 78 year old Willie Louise Kellum.  Ms. Kellum was a beloved mother, grandmother and life long friend of the community where she lived before being sexually assaulted, beaten and strangled to death with a cord in her home on February 21, 2005. Willie Louise was last seen in town grocery shopping and going to a laundry mat on the day she was found dead by her grandson, who was staying with her at the time of her death.

Camp Hill Police Chief Roosevelt Finley was the first officer to arrive at the crime scene back in 2005 and what he saw disturbed him greatly. He knew Willie Louise, he knew her family.  He couldn't imagine who would want to cause harm to Ms. Kellum. Crime scene photos showed an empty metal Brinks Security box near Kellum's lifeless body, and police believed the murder was committed during a robbery.  Kellum's adult daughters told Kelly Siegler and Yolanda McClary that they believed their mother may have received her income tax return, but neither of them knew how much money she was expecting or what was in that Brinks box.  The police collected evidence in 2005, but they lacked the resources to properly test it - that all changed when Siegler & McClary came to town.

Police had considered a few suspects in Willie Louises' homicide during the original investigation. Her grandson was said to have been staying with her at the time of the murder, and he was the one who discovered the body.  She had another grandson who was known to be staying at the house as well.  But the thought that a grandson could possibly sexually assault his own grandmother was a thought so sick and twisted that nobody wanted to believe it was possible. The small town rumor mill lay suspicion squarely on one of the grandsons, but with five warrants out for his arrest at the time Cold Justice came to town, the team was unable to locate him to re interview him. Ms. Kellum's telephone records ended up being a key piece of evidence. A phone call was made from Kellums home to the home of a woman who was the former girlfriend of a man named Markis Heard.  During the 2005 investigation, police could find no link between Markis Heard and Willie Louise Kellum. 

That phone call made Markis Heard a suspect in the 2005 investigation, but once the evidence was submitted for testing, the results were undisputable. DNA collected from Ms. Kellums underwear was found to be Markis Heard's. No doubt about it, the chances of the DNA coming from another human being was less then zero - he was indicted for the murder.  The link between Markis Heard and Willie Louise was also uncovered during Siegler and McClary's investigation.  Markis Heard was a friend of one of the Kellum grandsons. I was surprised that this link wasn't established during the original police investigation.  Heard's girlfriend's home was only a 5 minute walk from Ms. Kellum's home, and his alibi on the day of the murder completely fell apart after they re interviewed his former girlfriend and determined there were several hours where his whereabouts were unaccounted for.  In addition, Heard has a record for sexual assault and was in prison serving a 15 year sentence when this case was re-opened.  Heard allegedly sexually assaulted his own young daughter, so is it a stretch to believe he would sexually assault a 78 year old woman?  Yes, there are monsters walking among us, and it seems Markis Heard was one of them.

Armed with the new DNA results and the other evidence collected from the original investigation, it would appear this should be an open and shut case against Heard for the District Attorney's office. When Kelly, Yolanda and Police Chief Finley met with Willie Louises' daughters to tell them they had their suspect, they were truly relieved and grateful.  Relieved that their family members did not appear to have been directly involved in the murder, and grateful that Chief Finley never gave up on this case.  Another great episode. It seems unfortunate that it took 8 years to identify the suspect in this case, when DNA evidence was there all along waiting to be tested. This should never happen due to lack of resources.  I am looking forward to the rest of Season Two.  The Cold Justice team is racking up an impressive record. During Season One, their involvement and investigations helped local law enforcement secure 5 indictments and one guilty plea.  

The show's opening says that from 1980 to present day, there are more than 200,000 unsolved homicides across America.  That's a chilling statistic.  What if even 25% of those cases could be solved?  Can we build enough prisons to hold all of the murderers out there who have evaded justice? Is our justice system failing or is it just underfunded and understaffed?  How many other Willie Louise Kellum cases are there out there with DNA evidence waiting to be tested?  I don't know if as an adult, I'm just more aware of the violent crime that seems to be plaguing our society, or if murder is just becoming part of the American landscape. It's a frightening thought either way.  


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