30 years later, cold-case arrest of Ricky Dane Brown for murder of Edith McLeroy West.UPDATE: Ricky Dane Brown Sentenced To Life In Prison For The 30 Year Old Cold Case Murder Of Edith McLeroy West.

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Normal 30 years later, cold-case arrest of Ricky Dane Brown for murder of Edith McLeroy West.UPDATE: Ricky Dane Brown Sentenced To Life In Prison For The 30 Year Old Cold Case Murder Of Edith McLeroy West.

Post by laga on Sun Dec 12, 2010 5:38 pm

HOUMA — The body was weighted with a cinder block to keep it from view, but it refused to stay down.

Edith McLeroy West’s body was found Sept. 27, 1980, in a Terrebonne marsh. And so on Sept. 27, 1980, Terrebonne detectives were examining bruises on a nude woman's scalp and jaw.

They looked closely at how her hands were tied behind her back with a bandana. Notes were made of how sea creatures ravaged the bloated remains. Then-Sheriff Ronnie Duplantis said indications were the woman was killed elsewhere and then dumped. The cause of death was listed as asphyxiation.

The Thursday arrest of 54-year-old Ricky Dane Brown for the death of 23-year-old Edith Ann McLeroy has jarred the memories of local police officials who originally worked the case.

It came as a shock to her loved ones, who over the course of 30 years had all but written off the possibility that anyone would be brought to justice. They find themselves mourning anew the girl who once delighted in singing gospel songs with her brothers and sisters but drifted into a shadowy world of bikers and drugs, a world they maintain she was trying to escape.

“We are tickled to death that they finally got the one that done it, and we are hoping and praying that he gets what's coming to him,” stepmother Carol McLeroy said in an interview from her home in Holly Pond, Ala.

The victim's 42-year-old brother, Greg McLeroy, said he had a similar reaction at first.

“We just kept praying. At least I know somebody that can be blamed,” the truck driver said. “It is going to help bring some closure, and it has brought up all the emotions too. That's the bad part of it.”
Terrebonne's chief coroner's investigator, Gary Alford, was a 34-year-old deputy working the crime lab in the courthouse annex basement in 1980. He vividly recalls his attempts to identify the woman, who was listed as Jane Doe. Her jewelry — a single earring and a simple chain — yielded no clues.

“It was a challenge for me to be able to do that. We didn't have all this new stuff like the AFIS computer system that matches fingerprints up,” Alford said. “I had to take the prints off her hands, and then we had to hand-search the files.”

A local search yielded nothing.

Alford — on FBI instructions — removed the woman's hands and rushed them, along with the impressions he took on a card, to the Delta Airlines terminal at New Orleans International Airport for transport to Washington, D.C.

Information on file in Washington showed that the woman was born in Birmingham, Ala., the daughter of J.W. and Irene McLeroy. Irene had since remarried; her husband, Raymond Haynes, provided information required for the death certificate and some of the pieces of the puzzle began fitting together.

A BEAUTIFUL VOICE
Edith Ann spent much of her childhood and teens with J.W. and Carol. She was the eldest of eight siblings: two boys and six girls.

“Me and her daddy married when she was 8 or 10,” Carol said. “She was a very polite person with a beautiful smile, a sweet girl, and we miss her terribly.”

The stucco house of Edith Ann's girlhood in Cullman, Ala., still stands, across from the cemetery where she was laid to rest. Carol and other family members recall it as a loving home where the children often sang gospel songs together a cappella. Among Edith Ann's favorites were “Amazing Grace” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”

“We would have a good time. She had a beautiful voice,” Carol said of the girl who always seemed closest to her two young brothers.

“She was a big sister, pretty much a second mom,” Greg McLeroy said. “She was always telling us jokes and making stories, singing riddle songs and rhymes, pretty much stuff to please her little brat brothers. There was only two brothers, and we were her little pets.”

The family didn't watch much television but always gathered in front of a black-and-white set to watch “The Waltons.” When the show ended, with all of its children calling out good night, Edith would chirp out the names of her own brothers and sisters as well.

‘A SHOCK'
As a student at Fairview High School she wasn't much involved in school activities but held her own academically, Greg McLeroy said.

But during those high-school years changes were afoot, according to family members. A rebellious streak became more evident. Eventually Edith dropped out of school. Time was spent with people the family did not approve of, among them a Harley-riding man named Archie West from the nearby town of Hanceville.

She kept in touch with her family, slipping in and out from time to time for visits with her little brothers. She told her relatives she and West had been married, but nobody in the family knew much about him. Family members said Edith made occasional trips with West and a few other people who were members of what they referred to as a gang. Greg said his sister and West were married by a motorcycle gang member and doesn't know if it was ever recorded. Attempts to find records of Archie West's marriage or death as well as his relatives were not successful.

“One day she called me, and we talked,” Carol said. “She was checking in to see how everybody was. She told me she loved me, and I told her I loved her, and I told her to hurry back home.”

The year was 1980. The next time the family as a whole heard anything about Edith was when a friend called to say a newspaper ad asked for anyone knowing the young woman to contact authorities. That was how they learned she was dead.

“It was a shock,” Carol said.

BREAKING LOOSE
Greg McLeroy recalls conversations he had at the time with his sister.

“Archie was the leader in the little gang,” Greg said. “She found out what he really was and what he was into. She was trying to figure a way out of it. I was young, but we talked. Looking back I just feel like she knew something was going to happen, and she was letting me know. She had a heart of gold. She had made a few bad choices and realized it and was trying to straighten it out. She said she was trying to fix it to where she could get out and not be in trouble for stuff that he had done.”

Similar information has fueled decades of speculation by law-enforcement officials that she was killed because she talked to police about the motorcycle gang with police. Over the years Greg McLeroy has looked into matters himself.

Capt. Dawn Foret of the Terrebonne's Sheriff's Office confirmed that Archie West — who is now deceased — was jailed at the time of Edith's death, although the details have not yet been located. The theory, detectives who worked the case at the time said, was that West had ordered her killing. But that is not the only scenario investigators are working with, she said.

Ricky Brown was traveling with Edith, a friend named Peanut who is also deceased and other members of the group at the time of the killing, detectives confirmed.

“They worked at a concrete factory in Houma,” Foret said.

Carol McLeroy knew for many years that Brown was a suspect, but she didn't share that information with her children.

“I was totally surprised,” Greg McLeroy said about learning of Brown's alleged involvement, particularly since his home in Vinemont was so close to where family members live.

TRAIL OF TEARS
The winding country road Brown called home is in a remote area called Battleground, through which Indians were forced to march during the Trail of Tears, and where many Civil War skirmishes were fought.

A neighbor, Dennis Shockley, said he knows Brown's family but never saw the man much.

“I hadn't known much of him until about a year ago. He was working laying rocks,” Shockley said. “A guy would come pick him up and he'd be gone a week.”

Brown was helping take care of his father and stepmother, neither of whom would speak about him when contacted.

Greg McLeroy and other family members said they regret that Edith's father, J.W., did not live to see the arrest.

“The only time I ever seen him cry was the day he got the phone call when she died,” Greg said.

Father and son took some trucking trips together, and he said he would avoid traveling I-10 because it was so close to Houma. Relatives hope Brown's trial will answer painful questions that have lingered for three decades.

Meanwhile detectives continue working the case, hoping that more information might surface.

“I'm proud of them,” Foret said. “They really took it upon themselves, working their off time and still managing their regular case load. They took it to heart and really strived.”

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Normal Re: 30 years later, cold-case arrest of Ricky Dane Brown for murder of Edith McLeroy West.UPDATE: Ricky Dane Brown Sentenced To Life In Prison For The 30 Year Old Cold Case Murder Of Edith McLeroy West.

Post by laga on Sun Dec 12, 2010 8:43 pm

Wow, after 30 years an arrest!!!!! Murder cold cases hold a special interest for me since learning about the 10 year wait for the arrest in the murder of Leah. I am sure we would all be amazed at the sheer number of unsolved murder cases in this country.

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Normal Re: 30 years later, cold-case arrest of Ricky Dane Brown for murder of Edith McLeroy West.UPDATE: Ricky Dane Brown Sentenced To Life In Prison For The 30 Year Old Cold Case Murder Of Edith McLeroy West.

Post by Guest on Mon Dec 13, 2010 6:21 am

What an amazing story. I agree wow after 30 yrs. Reading this reminds me we should never give up hope on Justice being served.

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Normal Re: 30 years later, cold-case arrest of Ricky Dane Brown for murder of Edith McLeroy West.UPDATE: Ricky Dane Brown Sentenced To Life In Prison For The 30 Year Old Cold Case Murder Of Edith McLeroy West.

Post by Wrapitup on Mon Dec 13, 2010 7:48 am

WOW, that is truly amazing. Never give up is right, LM. We never know when a body will be discovered or a person will be arrested for a crime long ago.

Thank you, Laga!

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Normal UPDATE: Ricky Dane Brown Sentenced To Life In Prison For The 30 Year Old Cold Case Murder Of Edith McLeroy West

Post by NiteSpinR on Sun Jul 13, 2014 1:51 am

March 9, 2012
A Vinemont man arrested last year in Louisiana in connection with a murder case that had grown cold has been convicted of the three-decade-old crime.

A jury in Terrebonne Parish, La., found Ricky Brown, 55, guilty last month of the murder of Edith McLeroy West, a former Cullman County resident who was 23 years old at the time of her death in 1980.

Brown was one of two men sought for decades in connection with the murder. His alleged accomplice, Mike Burnett, died in 2008. A sentencing date for Brown has not been set.

Shortly after she went missing in 1980, the victim’s naked body was discovered by fishermen at a pond near Houma, with a cinder block tied around the neck.

Difficulty in locating Brown and Burnett — both originally considered suspects in the case due to anecdote alleging their acquaintance with the victim — led to the case going unresolved for more than 30 years, until Brown, who had an outstanding warrant unrelated to the murder, was arrested in late 2010 near Falkville for a traffic violation and transferred to Cullman County. He was indicted on murder charges in February 2011.

Carol McLeroy, the victim's stepmother, traveled from Alabama with Edith's brother, Greg McLeroy, and his wife, Nancy. After the trial, Carol McLeroy thanked police for staying on the case for so many years.

"I'm very happy for them," said Nancy McLeroy, of her family. She added that she was never able to meet her sister-in-law.

Authorities allege McLeroy's death had to do with the arrest of Archie "Possum" West, who was wanted on outstanding warrants in Cullman County.

The victim and West were married, though they were separated at the time of her death. West has since died, though witnesses testified that McLeroy had told police where West lived in Westwego, La.

"She had snitched his friend Possum off," said Viki Brown, Ricky Brown's ex-wife, during the trial.

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