Sunday, October 12, 2008
The South Florida Sod Farm Murders
Charlotte County, situated on the Gulf of Mexico, has one incorporated city: Punta Gorda. Most of the county is rural and many jobs in the area are agricultural. James Dennis “Jimbo” Ford worked at the South Florida Sod Farm in Charlotte County. The 7,000 acre business was located in the most remote region of the county.
Ford was a trackhoe and heavy equipment operator. He fancied himself an outdoorsman and had a campsite on the company’s property. He hunted for wild boar and fished the many lakes and ponds there.
Greg Malnory was a “fuel man” at the farm. His job was to keep all company vehicles gassed up. He and his attractive wife Kimberly had a 22-month-old daughter named Maranda. Malnory and Ford worked closely together and were, if not friends, familiar acquaintances.
On the afternoon of April 5, 1997, Malnory obtained permission from the general manager for him and his wife to go fishing on company property. Later, Ford met up with Greg, Kimberly, and Maranda. At about 1:30, they all drove down to the pond, Ford driving a red pickup and Malnory a blue truck.
When Greg didn’t show up for work the following morning, his employer became concerned. He’d worked for the company for two years and was known for being a dedicated worker. At around ten o’clock, a farm manager noticed his pickup on the dike road above the pond a few hundred yards from the company office. Several employees went to investigate. According to court documents, “they found Kim Malnory lying next to the truck, face down, and Greg Malnory in a field some distance from the truck; both people appeared to be dead. The baby was alive in the truck...the doors to the pickup were open, and the girl had mosquito bites all over her.”
Deputies from the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office were called and took the child from the truck. She’d been strapped into a car seat. Maranda was dehydrated, and had welts all over her body from insect bites. She was taken by ambulance to nearby St. Joseph’s Hospital where she eventually made a full recovery. (Maranda was later adopted by relatives.)
Dr. Rosa Robison, assistant medical examiner, arrived and inspected both bodies. She testified that she saw “oval-shaped discolorations on both sides of [Kim’s] thighs” and that the one-piece swim-suit she was wearing “was cut or ripped at the crotch.” Kim had nine “chopping” wounds to the head, as well as a gunshot wound to the upper palate of her mouth. Medical Examiner Dr. Manfred Clark Borges ruled that death occurred due to a combination of the gunshot to the mouth and the “sharp force injuries.” Semen was found inside her body.
Greg had been shot in the back of the head. His throat had been cut and he too had chopping wounds to his head and face. No drugs and no alcohol were detected in either victim.
Farm employees explained to cops that Jimbo Ford had been with the victims the previous afternoon. After leaving the farm, he appeared at a friend’s house wearing bloody clothes. He explained to the friend that the blood was from a hog he’d killed.
Investigators searched his house and truck. In the house, they found a pocket-knife.
Court records established Ford’s guilt. It read: “Ford was seen with the victims in the area of the crime just prior to the killings; Ford was seen in a distracted state with blood on his face, hands, and clothes; he was observed the next day, Monday, with scratches on his body; the rifle stock of a .22-caliber single-shot Remington rifle that belonged to Ford was found in a drainage ditch in the area where Ford’s truck ran out of gas Sunday evening; DNA from human debris found inside an Old Timer’s folding knife recovered from Ford’s bedroom matched Greg Malnory’s DNA type; DNA from a stain in Ford’s truck matched Kim Malnory’s type; DNA from a stain on the seat cover in Ford’s truck matched Kim’s type; DNA from semen found on the shirt Kim was wearing when murdered matched Ford’s type. DNA from vaginal swabs taken from Kim matched Ford’s type.”
At trial, prosecutors laid out the following timeline of events in the murders of Greg and Kim. After they arrived, Greg left his truck and began to walk toward the pond. Ford followed behind and shot him in the back of the head. He then chopped his face and head with an ax-type tool and used his pocket-knife to cut the victim’s throat, severing the jugular vein.
Kim saw the attack and attempted to protect her daughter. But Ford ran back to the truck and assaulted her. He raped Kim, using his knife to cut the crotch of her swimsuit. Defensive wounds showed she fought hard but was overpowered. She was then chopped and stabbed, but still didn’t die. To finish the job, Ford stuck the barrel of his rifle in her mouth and pulled the trigger, finally killing Kim. At some point, it is thought she tried to grab her daughter and run away because her blood was found on Maranda.
Two years later, Ford was tried and convicted of armed sexual battery, aggravated child abuse, and two counts of first degree murder. He was sentenced to death.
Ford’s appeals have all been denied.
Posted by Robert A. Waters at 11:42 AM