To Catch a Murderer: 21-year-old cold case re-opened

GREENEVILLE, TN (WJHL)  – He was a rookie patrol officer on that bitter cold January day in 1995. Detective Sergeant Danny Ricker still remembers the call over his police radio.greene-murder-frazier-pic

“When the initial call came in, Mr. Jones was still alive,” Detective Sgt. Ricker said.

Frazier Jones, a 76-year-old World War II Veteran who spent every day behind the counter at Jones Grocery Store in Baileyton, was found by investigators on the floor of the store. He’d been shot in the head. Cash he’d stashed to help some loyal customers was missing.

It was just after 3 p.m..

Medics took Jones to the Johnson City Medical Center while Greene County Sheriff’s deputies frantically looked for clues, ducking under police tape around the front porch of Jones Grocery.greene-murder-store-pic

Gary Jones remembers getting the call that his father was hurt and getting treatment in Johnson City.

“They said your Dad had been shot,” Jones told News Channel 11 in a recent interview. “I couldn’t believe it.”

“Frazier Jones was a pillar of the community,” said Hugh Wells, a family friend and former Greeneville Police Chief. “That someone would hurt him made no sense at all.”

As evening settled in, the Jones family got the stunning news. Frazier Jones was dead. His money was gone. His killer had disappeared.greene-murder-evidence-box

In the months after the murder, investigators said they followed up on multiple leads. Friends gathered reward money. People in the community speculated about who did it.

Jones Grocery never re-opened.

At some point, case files and evidence got stored away in boxes. Other crimes happened that required investigation.

But Sheriff Pat Hankins didn’t forget.

Sheriff Pat Hankins recently assigned an investigator to work the case full-time.
Sheriff Pat Hankins recently assigned an investigator to work the case full-time.

“Frazier Jones was such a well-respected Greene Countian,” the Sheriff staid, standing outside department headquarters in downtown Greeneville. “I just felt like we owed it to his family to give it one more try to see if we can solve that murder.”

So recently, the Sheriff made a bold move, assigning a detective to work the 21 year-old cold case full-time.

He also ordered all evidence to be submitted to the TBI for re-evaluation. “Hopefully the technology has evolved where we can gain some better clues,” Hankins said.

The TBI confirms its assisting the Greene County Sheriff’s Department in the investigation at the request of Sheriff Hankins, and News Channel 11 has learned a TBI investigator has traveled out of state on at least on occasion to conduct interviews as part of the Frazier Jones murder investigation.

“We’ve worked alongside the Greene County Sheriff’s Office to follow up on every possible lead,” said TBI spokesman Leslie Earhart.   “Unfortunately, we still need that one last piece of the puzzle to put it all together and we believe someone out there is sitting on information that can help us do that.”

A cash reward is still available for the person whose tip leads to an arrest. The GCSO isn’t disclosing the amount of money.

“It’s basically starting all over re-working the case from start to finish,” Ricker said.

After 21 years, an unsolved crime investigation can start to lose key players. People move away. People die.

We asked Det. Sgt. Ricker, “Do you think the killer is still in this community?”   His answer? “Yes… or close to this community… in an adjoining county.”

For the family of Frazier Jones, it’s hard to relive the memorie, But a renewed push to solve the case offers hope. “It would mean peace,” said Gary Jones. “Just knowing that someone would pay for what they took from us.”

Copyright 2016 WJHL.  All rights reserved.

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