A Small Town Murder

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Living in a small town means that everybody’s business is everybody’s business.  Although I’m a transplant in this small town, I have certainly heard of the horrible murder of Carol Jenkins back in the 1960’s.  This tragedy would span over four decades before being somewhat solved . . . but justice was never really served.

In the 60’s, Martinsville was still known as a sundown town.  This means that racism was rampant (and often encouraged) and people of “subpar” races were advised to be out of the town limits before sunset . . . or face painful, and often deadly, consequences.

Even with that knowledge, an african american 20 year old named Carol Jenkins volunteered (on her first day of her new job) to go to Martinsville, Indiana to sell encyclopedias door to door.  She may have felt safe given that she would be with two white men and another young african american woman.

Carol certainly would have stood out in the town.  She was african american and was well dressed, including a bright yellow scarf which is often mentioned in the retelling of the tragedy.  The details of the scarf were not made public at the time and played an important role later in verifying details later in the case.

Two white men reportedly started harassing her verbally as she went from house to house.  Carol sought help at the house of Don and Norma Neal at  ADDRESS.  The Neals called the police who investigated the situation.  They reported back that they had found two locals who admitted to having followed Carol, but no crime had been committed.  Mrs. Neal walked around the area with Carol looking for her co-workers.  After an unsuccessful search,  the Neals offered to let Carol spend the night with them.  She declined and left to go meet with her co-workers at a pre-determined location.

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She left the Neal home around 8:30 pm and was last seen near the corners of Columbus and Colfax Streets.  She was found less than 30 minutes later.  She had been tracked down, her hands held behind her back and she was stabbed in the heart with a screwdriver.  Her killers left her in the street to die.

Carol’s father (who was actually her stepfather but had raised her as his own) felt that the FBI should be consulted due to the racist history of Martinsville.  Local police did not feel this to be necessary.

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The murder mystery case turned cold and left a (probably much deserved) stigma on the small south central Indiana town.

125584151_1396100047In 2000, Carol’s mother received an anonymous phone call revealing the name of the purported killer.  Using their own money, they hired a private investigator.  I’m sure their willingness to use their own savings probably encouraged the Indiana State Police to open up the cold case.  This in turn produced an anonymous letter sent to the ISP stating that Kenneth Clay Richmond had ended Carol’s life.  The letter also stated that Kenneth’s young daughter had witnessed the event.

Richmond’s daughter, Shirley, had been seven years old when her dad and a friend were driving around town drinking with her in the back seat.   They had stopped, grabbed Carol and stabbed her making the young girl an involuntary witness.  As they pulled away, Shirley said she saw Carol fall into a bush.

As they drove away, Shirley’s dad gave her $1 for each year of her life ($7) to not tell anyone what she had seen.

Shirley kept that secret for years.  Eventually she confided in a former sister-in-law, Connie McQueen.  It was Connie’s phone call to the ISP that cracked the case wide open.

88661_maxOn May 8, 2002, police arrested 70 year old Richmond in an Indianapolis nursing home.  Richmond had been known to be a KKK member during his life and actually lived in another county when they drove through Martinsville and murdered Jenkins.

I’m sure the Jenkins family felt they were on the path to justice with the arrest of Richmond.  This would not be the case though.  Richmond never identified his accomplice.  He was found to be incompetent to stand trial and two weeks later died of bladder cancer.

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Martinsville natives still tend to be close-mouthed about this whole thing.  We have so much to offer here but we are stigmatized by this tragedy and a history of racism.  Demographics still paint us as a white town even though it has become more racially diverse over the last few decades.

When I first heard of the murder a few years ago, I was heartbroken.  Not only did I feel the murder was horrible, but I felt that the fact that the lack of justice was even worse.  My heart goes out to the family.

Peace, Love & Respect

Hoosier Barn Chick

 

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