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FeetToTheFire

1972 Unsolved Durham Family Murders in Boone, N.C.

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FeetToTheFire

On the evening of Thursday, February 3, 1972 three members of the Durham Family were found dead in their home on Clyde Townsend Road in Boone, North Carolina. The victims were Bryce Durham (51), his wife Virginia Church Durham (44), and their son Bobby Joe Durham (19). This coming February will mark the fiftieth anniversary of this unsolved triple homicide in the small, mountain town which so many of us call home. This thread is meant to bring renewed attention in the community to the case in the hopes that it will soon be solved. While everyone is welcome to contribute, we especially invite those who lived in the area when the crime occurred, who were familiar with the family and the local community, or who may have information related to the investigation. To be clear -we are invested members of the community and are in no way connected to law enforcement. We will also be updating the thread with relevant newspaper articles, non-graphic images, and other relevant information along the way. 

Thanks for stopping by and helping us come closer to justice for the victims - Bryce, Virginia, and Bobby Joe, and the loved ones they left behind. 

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FeetToTheFire

I'm linking below several threads, including two from this site, which have received significant entries over the years. Unfortunately, some of these are now closed to comment, and others share articles and links that have long since expired. As such, when we add in newspaper articles and images, we will try to upload them as jpegs/pdfs rather than links, since these do tend to change or expire over time. Please see related threads below: 

 

Original Unexplained Mysteries Thread: 

https://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/forum/topic/262185-unsolved-triple-murder-north-carolina-1972/?tab=comments#comment-5073413

Unexplained Mysteries Thread (with helpful maps):

https://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/forum/blogs/blog/3994-lorimommy3s-blog/

Go Wilkes 2010 Thread 

https://www.gowilkes.com/voice/who-killed-the-durham-family-heres-my-story/77993/?startview=140

Websleuths Thread

https://www.websleuths.com/forums/threads/nc-bryce-51-virginia-46-bobby-durham-19-boone-2-feb-1972.256704/page-2

 

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susieice

I remember this case. I'm going to read through everything to refresh my memory. I'm just posting this short article about the murders as a background. I thought I remembered a car dealership being involved and a really bad snowstorm.

https://www.wataugademocrat.com/news/investigation-of-durham-family-s-slaying-continues/article_e16a2616-a983-11e4-9e07-bbfdbdd91c44.html

Edited by susieice
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Vincennes

There is a rather indepth disscussion on this not that long ago,  This should be combined.  

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susieice

I just googled this also. It was all mentioned in the original thread. It's going to take a while to read through that.

https://journalnow.com/40-year-old-unsolved-triple-murder-still-haunts-law-enforcement/article_3f04e50f-a3a2-5aed-9dfb-c0118871ac34.html

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susieice

It was mentioned in the previous thread that a PI named Cecil Small had taken the daughter and son-in-law to the house because their car wouldn't start. He said he had also given a ride to Lee Harvey Oswald on the day JFK was killed. That's a really odd claim to make, so I looked to see if I could find anything referring to that claim. I did. 

http://www.kenrahn.com/JFK/The_critics/Whitmey/Small.html

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susieice
49 minutes ago, Vincennes said:

There is a rather indepth disscussion on this not that long ago,  This should be combined.  

It would be easier if I could quote the comments in the original thread to the comments I'm making now. I'm finding things that must not have been online in 2014 or weren't found or are just later in the thread. It's going to be hard to understand without reading the whole thread to find the comments I'm talking about. Can't quote them here from a link.

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docyabut2

Still think it was the daughter and the son in law that killed them and blamed some black men.

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susieice
54 minutes ago, docyabut2 said:

Still think it was the daughter and the son in law that killed them and blamed some black men.

I remember discussing this case, but I don't seem to be in the thread posted. Weird. There must be another one in the Forum somewhere. I remember this case well.

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Vincennes
1 hour ago, susieice said:

I remember discussing this case, but I don't seem to be in the thread posted. Weird. There must be another one in the Forum somewhere. I remember this case well.

I think very likely there are a couple of threads on it.  I was really involved in the longer one showing up on this page now.  I hate how you forget things that did seem important.  A couple of the things I do remember was Ginny's behavior at the funeral was really off.  Her husband's alibi was weak and should have been challenged and what was referred to as stolen silver was actually silverplate and no professional thief would bother with that, it's worthless as pawn or resale.   Also, althougth Ginny years later gave money to the university there, she never contributed to a reward fund to find her family's killers.   Links are all back in that thread.  

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susieice

I found the story posted by rashore in post # 1230 of the old thread to be really interesting. The print is kind of small, but it tells quite a story! I don't know how to link it to this thread. I found it an excellent read.

What I really found interesting is what Chandler had to say about what happened that night.

Edited by susieice
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docyabut2

Remembered reading some reports on a possible motive for the murders.

Troy, Ginny had a bad car . Troy went to her father`s dealership and took a car and her father demanded they bring back the car. 

the day of the murders  her father had to picked her up,

so the motive is they were really mad at her family and they gave her brother more.

and went to their house beat them and murdered them   

 after the night they were murdered ,Troy the next day went over and took a car out of the dealership.

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susieice

I found the post where rashore listed all the posts from the 2014 thread in 2016. It was post # 1229. There are some differences in the reports. I'm trying to figure a timeline as to how Troy could have been at the crime scene before going home and getting this phone call from Virginia Durham. What gets me is that the house was totally trashed all the way through the basement. That takes time to do and the Durham's didn't get home until 9 pm. Troy was reported to have been seen at the library of the ASU at 8 pm and didn't get home until 10 pm. He answered the phone call around 10:30 which means Virginia was still alive, if it was really her. Tire tracks were found on the dead end road across a field from the Durham's house and the same tire tracks were found behind the ditched Jimmy. If Troy had been there during the murders, he couldn't have been alone. I don't think he could have subdued the family by himself but he could have met someone. He's not reported as being seen at the library after 8. No one could have been driving very fast as the roads were icy and had at least 4 inches of snow on them. The weather gets to me too. Even people accustomed to driving in snow will stay put in those conditions and I believe it was still snowing when the murders were discovered. Bryce didn't use his car and told Bobby to go home with them as he didn't think the cars would make it up the hill to the house. What a strange choice of nights to do something like this! That's one of the things that stuck out in my mind from the thread I was in. I can't find it. I remember the case, the car dealership and the snow, but I can't recall the discussion. Too long ago. 

Edited by susieice
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susieice
On 9/11/2021 at 10:29 AM, Vincennes said:

I think very likely there are a couple of threads on it.  I was really involved in the longer one showing up on this page now.  I hate how you forget things that did seem important.  A couple of the things I do remember was Ginny's behavior at the funeral was really off.  Her husband's alibi was weak and should have been challenged and what was referred to as stolen silver was actually silverplate and no professional thief would bother with that, it's worthless as pawn or resale.   Also, althougth Ginny years later gave money to the university there, she never contributed to a reward fund to find her family's killers.   Links are all back in that thread.  

I saw in one of those links that Troy kept Ginny separated from her family at the funeral. He didn't want her near them. That is really strange behavior!

Edited by susieice
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docyabut2

I believe it was said the Durham's got home at around 9:00 PM  a witness said 9:45 and another witness said he saw that car at 10:30 pm pulling out of that street  almost running him over. 

Edited by docyabut2
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docyabut2

After the discovery of the bodies, Hall and Small went to a neighbor’s apartment to contact the BPD. John Tester, dispatcher on duty, said the call came in around 10:50 p.m. and that the caller seemed to be “mighty shook up.”

The Durham Family Murders- - Imgur

 

Officers were told that a green-and-white four-wheeled GMC Jimmy was seen leaving the residence shortly after 10:30 p.m.

 

Edited by docyabut2
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susieice

I seem to have lost my post when I submitted, <_<, so I'll try again. I was reading the websleuth post and found an interesting entry on page one by a local named tacybear. The link comes up on page two so you need to go back. She makes some good points. It's important for us to remember that when we are talking about Boone, even in 1972, it was like Mayberry- Andy Griffith Show. This was just a small mountain town with a small police force with, no doubt, very limited resources. They probably didn't have 911 until years later even if we in populated areas and cities did, and I'm not sure about that. I was in high school and I really don't think we did. They would have had to have the operator connect them to police or dial the number direct. That explains why Virginia called a number she knew well (her daughter) rather than police if she was afraid she'd be heard or discovered.

Also, I want to ask, have police ever run a DNA test on any of the evidence? Especially the rope found around Bryce's neck. The links also say hair and fiber was found in the Jimmy and the house. They did search for evidence and run fingerprints through the system every year. Police today have had a lot of success running DNA from old cold cases through ancestry sites and hitting on a relative. This would be well worth the try.

Edited by susieice
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docyabut2

What gets me is, why didn't Hall call the police to get over there to protect them , when the mother in law told him black men were beating up her husband and son. 

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susieice

It's weird how Troy and Ginny moved right after the murders. There's nothing saying how long they were separated before they got the divorce a few years later. It's really weird how Troy is a lousy student and a bum here and then he goes to college and becomes a lawyer in Georgia and an upstanding member of the community. The links say he wasn't a very good student, so how does he suddenly become lawyer material? It's like he and Ginny had to be involved with drugs at this time as had been suggested. I can't find anything on Ginny. There isn't much on the internet about this case. It's still the same links that are left.

Edited by susieice
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susieice

I found this article. But it says part of the house flooded from the bathtub. The other links say the floor was dry. It also mentions blood in the living room. Some of the others mentioned that also. Was it ever determined or released whose blood it was?

https://www.newspapers.com/image/?clipping_id=43274003&fcfToken=eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJmcmVlLXZpZXctaWQiOjE5NzIxNzg4NiwiaWF0IjoxNjMxNDgyMTMxLCJleHAiOjE2MzE1Njg1MzF9.KZlZddSm9HAZU1i_wpDgIQ1QRIlSl8wH5W4qwQv8BQE

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docyabut2
57 minutes ago, susieice said:

I found this article. But it says part of the house flooded from the bathtub. The other links say the floor was dry. It also mentions blood in the living room. Some of the others mentioned that also. Was it ever determined or released whose blood it was?

https://www.newspapers.com/image/?clipping_id=43274003&fcfToken=eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJmcmVlLXZpZXctaWQiOjE5NzIxNzg4NiwiaWF0IjoxNjMxNDgyMTMxLCJleHAiOjE2MzE1Njg1MzF9.KZlZddSm9HAZU1i_wpDgIQ1QRIlSl8wH5W4qwQv8BQE

There are so many articles on the Durham case .I read one where it said the floors were dry, they could not find any footprints  And the only things missing's were towels.  The police should have check out  the Small `s truck  that Troy and Ginny  came in , but they didn't.  

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FeetToTheFire

Thanks to everyone for their contributions over the weekend. I’ve also had to go back through and read several of these articles and threads to refresh my memory on important details and timelines. There’s so much more to cover, but I thought I’d start by addressing the key points that everyone has mentioned thus far: 

 

1. The evening of the murders was marked by a severe snowstorm. According to local accounts, the snow began to fall around 3pm that afternoon and it continued well into the evening. Having lived in Boone for many years, this is the kind of event that makes locals take precautionary measures - leaving your car at the bottom of your driveway, pulling out jars of canned food from the basement, and having candles, matches, and kerosene lamps on hand in case the power goes out. To this end, I am surprised that the App State library stayed open as late as it did that evening. Some accounts place the son-in-law, Troy Hall, at the library around 8pm, although I believe this witness was a friend, and the book he had checked out was actually much earlier in the afternoon. There was also a local basketball game, which I believe Bobby Joe was planning to attend with friends, but did not. I believe the game was cancelled due to the poor weather conditions. 

 

2. There have been a number of theories to circulate over the years. One, with variations, suggests that it was the son-in-law, Troy Hall, who had a strained relationship with the Durham family and allegedly may have been involved in either using or distributing drugs, or both. A related theory suggests that the daughter, Ginny, was aware of/indirectly involved/directly involved in planning and orchestrating the crime. She did receive a sizable inheritance, $107,585, according to a local newspaper report. It is true that four individuals - Jerry Cassada, Dean Chandler, Dewey Coffey, and Eugene Garren were arrested a few months after the crime under the auspices of the crime being related to an odometer roll-back scheme that stretched across western North Carolina. Two of the four were released early on, the other two were indicted, but not convicted due to a lack of evidence. Still other theories point to organized crime - the nature of the killings, the execution style and the military knots used, as well as the fact that the Green Berets were in town giving a ski demonstration, which Bryce Durham attended as part of the local Rotary Club. I have also loosely heard of some Mafia-related theories, once again circling back around to drugs/illegal or stolen cars/horse racing and gambling, etc. These are the most commonly cited theories that I’m aware of, from a general perspective. 

 

3. The crime scene: someone asked specifically about the blood that was found on the living room carpet when investigators arrived. I believe that Virginia Durham had sustained injuries across her face, including her nose, and that the blood found at the scene belong to her. Each of the victims, I believe, had bruising on their face and Mr. Durham suffered a blow from a blunt force object. The formal cause of death was listed as “asphyxiation due to strangulation and possible drowning.” I also believe that at least one set of partial prints were recovered from the house, and that investigators continue to run these through a database each year, but have never recovered a match. One would assume that the SBI took fingerprints from their prime suspects, including Troy Hall, Jerry Cassada, Dean Chandler, Dewey Coffey, and Eugene Garren. So if none of their prints matched this partial, it begs the question, who else might have been at the home that evening? 

Edited by FeetToTheFire
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