Augusta inmate helps solve 50-year-old triple slaying
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Authorities say that after a confession from an Augusta State Medical Prison inmate, they’re able to close the books on a 50-year-old triple homicide case in North Carolina.
According to the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office in North Carolina, 51-year-old Bryce Durham, his wife Virginia, 44, and 18-year-old son Bobby were found murdered Feb. 3, 1972, in their Boone home during a snowstorm.
The family was found by their son-in-law after he and his wife went to check on the family with the help of a neighbor.
Investigators said that 81-year-old Billy Wayne Davis, who is currently an inmate at Augusta State Medical Prison, is believed to be the only surviving perpetrator in the Durham case.
According to the sheriff’s office, the other perpetrators have been identified as Billy Sunday Birt, Bobby Gene Gaddis and Charles David Reed, all deceased.
Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman said his office received a phone call in May 2019 from the White County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia with information they recognized as possibly being important to the Durham case.
According to Hagaman, the new leads were investigated and in-person interviews were conducted with Davis in September 2019, October 2020 and August 2021.
“It was these interviews that ultimately helped us determine who was responsible through the corroboration of evidence. We are confident that we now know who committed these crimes,” the sheriff said.
Interviews with two sources corroborated evidence from the Durham crime scene, and the circumstances of the crime were similar to a 1973 case in Georgia, known as the Fleming Case, in which Birt, Gaddis, Reed and Davis were all involved, authorities said.
Led by Birt, Davis, Reed and Gaddis were part of a loosely organized network known as the Georgia-based “Dixie Mafia,” which is thought to have engaged in dozens of violent crimes in Georgia and elsewhere across the southeast in the 1960s and ‘70s, according to law enforcement.
The 2019 lead first surfaced when Birt’s son, Shane Birt, was at the White County Sheriff’s Office to participate in research for a book about crimes that had taken place in Georgia, including the Fleming Case.
According to investigators, Shane Birt shared that he was very close with his father and recalled a story Birt had told him during a prison visit when he admitted to killing three people in the North Carolina mountains during a heavy snowstorm, remembering that they almost got caught.
After hearing Shane Birt’s account, officials with the White County Sheriff’s Office immediately contacted the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office.
Davis was interviewed by North Carolina sheriff’s investigators at the Augusta facility, where he is serving a life sentence for crimes he committed in Georgia.
During those interviews, Davis implicated Birt, Gaddis and Reed as engaging in a hired “hit” in the North Carolina mountains, one where they almost got caught during a bad snowstorm, law enforcement said.
According to authorities, Davis claimed to have acted only as their getaway driver, and that it was the other three men that entered the house that night.
It remains unclear who solicited the crime against the Durham family.
In November 2021, North Carolina deputies held a meeting with Durham family members to inform them of their investigation and conclusions.
“I would like to thank all of the people who worked for decades on my family’s case. I know that they sacrificed many days and weekends in order to work on solving this case since 1972,” Ginny Durham, the victims’ daughter and sister, said.
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