Investigators Seek To Close 35-Year-Old Cold Case After New Information Surfaces
Posted August 15, 2005 7:16 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH, N.C. — More than 35 years after a young woman was burned alive, investigators say they have gotten the break they needed in the case. They say they have a suspect, but it is just one part of the decades-old mystery because they still do not know the identity of the victim.
On April 27, 1968, a woman in a green and white polka dot dress was seen walking down Ten Ten Road in Southern Wake County.
Jo Ann Hunter says her mother and sister saw her as they drove toward a church up the road. When they came back 15 minutes later, she was gone.
View This Story:
"She (Hunter's mother) says she kept remembering that she would look back," Hunter said. "When they came back, they didn't see the woman. They saw a fire burning in the field."
The women believed a farmer was burning something until the next day when the woman's body was discovered in that spot.
"It was a horrendous crime," said Chief Ronnie Stewart, of the Wake County Sheriff's Office.
Stewart says this case was the department's oldest unsolved murder until a witness came forward with details he calls "significant" and "strong."
"That evidence tended to show with certainty that the victim was killed by Robert Reagan, a resident of the community at the time," Stewart said.
Investigators interviewed Reagan in 1968. He admitted that he and a friend named David Baker drove up the road to get a look at the woman, but told detectives she had vanished when they got there.
Stewart says information in the case file indicates that Reagan planted tobacco in Canada. Because this woman was a stranger to neighbors, he thinks it is possible that the woman came down from Canada to meet with Reagan.
Investigators are protecting the new information, but District Attorney Colon Willoughby says it is strong enough to warrant charges. That will not happen, however, because Reagan died in 1992.
Reagan's family does not accept the charges.
"I would like the public to know that there are two sides to this story," said Jewel Madsen, Reagan's daughter. "We've been shown no evidence, no proof. If he was alive today, he would have a trial. All the evidence would be put forward for us to make a rational decision."
Madsen and her sister, Vickie Dement, say their father had a reputation as a womanizer and an abusive husband, which makes him an easy target. They say the Canada theory cannot be true because their father had not been there in nearly 10 years before the woman was found dead.
Investigators believe that the victim's identity could hold vital clues to officially close the case.
The whereabouts of her remains are unknown, but investigators say they have hair and blood samples from the original investigation. They also have a description.
"I know her hair was dark brown with a small amount of gray," Stewart said. "She had a surgical scar below the left side of her naval. She wore a size 7-1/2 shoe. Her blood type was A-positive."
There are also pictures of a gas can, matches, hair spray and other personal items found at the scene.
"I believe someone's missing this victim. They think she probably left on her own free will to start another life," said Scott Broadwell, of the Wake County Sheriff's Office.
Investigators are asking anyone with information in the case to call the Wake County Sheriff's Office at