Multiple Murders in My Neighborhood
That day still haunts me from time to time. My ex-husband, Tom, and I were just finishing our new home, and we were outdoors staining some molding when my mother-in-law pulled up in her silver Lincoln Town Car. I knew immediately that something terrible had happened because she was obviously shaken, and Mrs. Todd wasn’t an emotional person. Her car window was down, and when she got even with us, she said, “They’re dead. They’re all dead!” Of course, we had no idea who she was referring to at first, until she continued. “Clifford. Nina. Even Jerold – they’ve all been killed!” The family she was telling us about, the Joneses, were my ex’s cousins, and they lived just down the road from us. And yes, I’m using the real names of the family that was murdered, although I’ve changed the names of my ex-husband and mother-in-law.
Clifford and his brother, Gene, were farmers, as were we. They raised cows, pigs, and row crops. They also owned and ran a restaurant called Reedy Creek Cabin Restaurant. Clifford lived just across the dirt road from the eatery, and Gene lived about half a mile away. On the fateful day of April 26, 1986, Clifford, his wife Nina, and their son Jerold were all brutally murdered in their home. Some of the details are fuzzy, but I’ll share with you what I’ve been told by family members.
Early that Saturday morning, two men and a woman were watching the house. They saw Clifford and Nina’s teenage daughter, Christy, drive away in the family car, headed to Jekyll Island with a group of schoolmates. Evidently, the criminals believed the house to be empty. They had the woman drop them off, and the two men entered the home through the back door. Clifford was in the kitchen. Clifford Jones was a man’s man, and he put up a heck of a fight. The two assailants had to shoot and stab him numerous times to kill him. Nina and 14-year-old Jerold were in a bedroom, and the men shot and killed Nina. As Jerold was trying to escape out a window, he was stabbed, shot, and pistol whipped.
The woman came back to pick up the two murderers, and they sped away. A neighbor noticed the car and remembered it. The three drove immediately to a little town just across the South Carolina state line, and the woman and one of the men got married. It seems that this was going to be part of their alibi.
Once the gruesome murders were discovered, the entire community was devastated. The Joneses were well respected and well liked by everyone. Every time I saw Clifford, he always had a joke for me, and Nina was charming – a real southern lady. Christie had babysat for us numerous times, and Jerold rode the school bus with my daughter. Things like this just weren’t supposed to happen in Kville, Georgia. Kville is located in Wayne County, in the southeast part of the state. The town is really little more than a crossroads, and the cattle population far outnumbers the humans there. The entire community was gripped by fear for weeks. In fact, we actually began locking our doors in the daytime – something we’d never done before.
My husband and I went to the funeral, of course, and it was the largest one I’d ever seen. As I said, this family was much loved. I was sad and still in shock, I think. I did okay seeing Clifford and Nina, but when I passed Jerold’s casket, I broke down. How could someone murder an innocent child? This sweet boy was robbed of so many years. He’d never go to the prom, get a driver’s license, graduate from high school, attend college, or get married and father children. In my opinion, child murderers deserve a fate worse than death.
As far as I knew, no one had a clue as to who the culprits were. The motive was obviously theft. The perpetrators must have thought that Clifford had the restaurant earnings in his home. He didn’t – he and Gene always took turns keeping the money, and on that weekend, it was Gene who had the cash. Still, the two burglars-turned-murderers took some cash, some guns, and some other valuables after the helpless family was dead.
A few weeks later, on June 17, two men broke into a home in nearby Brunswick, Georgia and killed the homeowner. A neighbor heard the commotion and went to investigate with his gun. He killed one of the men in the process. The dead criminal’s name was Bruce Lee, and his brother’s name is Larry Lee. Lee fled but turned himself in while in Arizona. Larry Lee was tried for murder in Glynn County, Georgia and was found guilty. He was sentenced to life. Somehow, these brothers were indicated in the Jones murders after Larry Lee was arrested.
Lee’s request for a change of venue for the Jones murders was denied, so it was held in Wayne County Superior Court, with Judge Killian presiding. The trial was sensational, especially for a sleepy town like Jesup, the county seat. The courthouse was packed to capacity. Lee, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder in Brunswick, was found guilty of the three murders, along with burglary, armed robbery, and possession of a firearm while committing a felony. He was sentenced to death for the Joneses’ gruesome murders.
Lee remained on death row until 2008, when Judge Gary McCorvey, of Tifton, Georgia overturned the sentence. McCorvey’s ruling was not appealed. If the Lee brothers didn’t kill the Jones family, that means the crimes are still unsolved murders. Most of the people in Wayne County felt and still feel that justice wasn’t served, and many are still irate. Rumors of a new trial can still be heard around town.
Larry Lee is serving his life sentence in Telfair State Prison, a close security prison located in Helena, Georgia. From what I can gather, Lee has no chance of parole, as no tentative parole date is listed on the Georgia Department of Corrections website.