New details released as investigator talks about breaking 25-year-old cold case

By: Sheli Muniz Email
By: Sheli Muniz Email
Jimmy Lee Riley (WRDW-TV)

Jimmy Lee Riley (WRDW-TV)

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Tuesday, June 5, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- News 12 is learning new details in a 1986 murder case that went unsolved for 25 years.

Richmond County deputies arrested 52-year-old Jimmy Lee Riley this week for the stabbing death of an 87-year-old Hyde Park woman in December of 1986.

One of two investigators who solved the case says technology and evidence were key.

Investigators reopened the case a little more than a month ago and in just four weeks, they were able to break a case that sat with little answers for two decades.

When it comes to solving a case, time is key.

"People move on. People pass on. Information gets lost. People don't necessarily remember as well as they did back then and over the years, evidence can degrade," said Richmond County Crime Scene Investigator Tom Johnson.

But, when it came to the stabbing death of 87-year-old Pauline McCoy on Dec. 21, 1986, time changed everything.

"A lot of the procedures, a lot of techniques, and a lot of the capabilities have changed," Johnson said.

Four weeks ago, Violent Crimes Investigator Ashley Pletcher contacted Johnson. Pletcher wanted to take another look at a cold case.

"You start getting interested and you want to look into it because maybe you can solve it," Johnson said.

So, for days, he looked at some of the evidence, trying to match it to a list of more than six potential suspects.

"To be honest with you, I kind of expected to go through these and not find anything," Johnson told News 12.

That is what happened in 2004 when it was reopened. That year, a crime scene investigator enhanced some of the evidence helping them in this latest attempt.

"When I got to him [Jimmy Lee Riley] and I saw there was a possibility of a match, I could automatically start feeling my heart pounding a little bit more," Johnson said.

One crucial piece led him and investigator Pletcher right to their guy.

"I just looked over at her and said, 'It's a match,' and she went ecstatic," Johnson said.

A guy who has been on the run for decades is now sitting in the Richmond County Jail. Investigators say it really just came down to the evidence.

"I like to say, 'Children tell stories, adults tell lies, evidence tells the truth,'" Johnson said.

Investigators say solving this case even came down to the notes taken back then. They say the notes were so detailed that investigators now were able to go down the list to figure out what or what hadn't been done.

Riley was 26 years old at the time of the crime. Once investigators had matched the evidence, they say they didn't know if Riley was still in the area, alive or in prison because he did have a criminal history.

Riley is now 52 years old and we're told he is not cooperating very much with law enforcement.

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 Fax: (803) 442-4561
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