CRESTVIEW — On Sept. 11, 1988, George Henry Jones, a 71-year-old Crestview resident, was found bludgeoned to death with a hammer in the living room of his 782 E. Walnut St. home. He was also stabbed with a screwdriver.
Shortly thereafter, two men — who happened to be his acquaintances — were arrested, but the charges against them were eventually dropped and the case has since gone cold.
“If he lived, he’d be 100 years old today,” said Ralph Garrett, an investigator at Crestview’s police department who oversees all the city’s cold cases and crimes against children. “He was born in 1917.”
Garrett has over 20 cases on his desk at the moment, three or four of which are cold cases, and he’s about to commence work on the case of Mr. Jones, believing that it can be solved.
“There were two arrests made in this case and they were made really quick,” he said while shuffling through some sheets of old data. “17th of September of ’88, there were two arrests made just six or seven days after the murder and I am not giving names because they were nol-prossed [not prosecuted] and the reason for the nol-pross was they didn’t feel there was enough information to supply to prosecute successfully and it’s better to nol-pross than to try someone and get a 'not guilty' because you can’t try them again — double jeopardy!”
“That’s a long time ago; I was a young deputy working at the sheriff’s department then and we are hoping to get into this relatively quick and hopefully bring it to a closure,” he said.
When asked if he thought it was a crime of passion, Garrett responded, “It sounds like a crime of anger and I believe the people who did this knew him.”
No case is too big or small for Garrett, who said that cold cases of this kind don't have to be nipped in the bud.
“I solved two in the sheriff’s office. All of these cases are solvable, but you have to understand that most of the agencies around here are not big enough to have a cold case squad.”
“My primary goal is to solve crimes against children and we have people out there right now who are hurting children,” he said. “It would be nice to have a group of people here who were just going to work on cold cases.”
“There is physical evidence here in this case and I have to make contact with the [Florida Department of Law Enforcement] lab to get some evidence. They did some examination on this evidence back in 1988 and they didn’t have the capabilities in ’88 that they do in 2017, it’s come a long way. So I am going to be on the phone with them, with a list that they have, and a list of what I have and they are going to let me know what I have the best chance of finding something for," he said.
"That’s the first step and it may be all we need.”