DA: More cold case arrests expected

Published 3:21 am Saturday, June 15, 2013

One down, two to go

As the county’s cold case task force closed one case Friday, its members were still actively working two other murders, District Attorney Walt Merrell said.

Merrell gave new insight into the inner workings of the county’s 15-member cold case task force, announcing that the members were divided into three teams – each working a cold case homicide.

There has been no media coverage or public speculation about the father and son duo that became the first arrests for the county’s cold case task force Friday. Instead, public focus centered on the 1994 shooting death of James “Nibby” Barton.

During the press conference, Merrell would neither confirm nor deny that investigators are working Barton’s case as the second cold case; however, the task force has made three public investigative pushes including the excavation of a Pt. A Road homesite and the exhumation of the Gantt man who lived there, as well as a search the site of Barton’s murder. There, investigators were seen recovering items from inside the store.

But on Friday, Merrell again reiterated the need for secrecy in the investigations.

“I will say that (Friday’s arrests) and the dig (earlier this month) are unrelated,” he said. “I will say the arrests were the product of the third team with the cold case task force. The other two teams are working on two other cases.”

A recent series by The Star-News identified five unsolved murders in Covington County – Barton’s; the 1997 shooting of James “Jimmy” Williams in Opp; the 2003 beating death of Colin Douglas Millick in Florala; the 1978 shooting death of Ed Smith in Florala; and, while officially listed as a kidnapping/missing person, the disappearance of Kemberly Ramer.

“Today’s arrests are just the tip of the iceberg,” Merrell said. “Know that (law enforcement) does not stop or quit because a case is old. We stay active, and anytime we get a lead, we work it.

“I have little doubt in the near future, an arrest will be made with the other cases,” he said. “I know that some are anxiously awaiting those results, and I know one or two that are mighty nervous about those results.”

Merrell had strong advice for those responsible in the deaths of other local residents.

“Come tell us what happened,” he said. “You want that burden off your shoulders? Then, make right the wrong.

“The bottom line is that we’re not going to give up; we’re not going to stop,” he said. “We are extremely patient, and we’re especially confident. Justice always prevails, so to those responsible, I say, ‘Come to my office. Tell us what happened. Justice has compassion for those who want to right a wrong.’

“If (they don’t come), that’s OK,” he said. “We’re going to get ‘em.”