Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Unsolved Murder of Jennifer Lynn Stone

The Unsolved Murder of Jennifer Lynn Stone
by Robert A. Waters

In 1983, I received my Master’s Degree from the University of Georgia. Even though it’s been two-and-a-half decades since I last returned, I have fond memories of the place. At the time, Athens was a beautiful city with narrow roads, centuries-old trees, and antebellum homes. Downtown had a typical collegiate flavor. I remember that there was a bookstore beneath the sidewalk on Main Street and artsy, trendy businesses all along the road. It was close to that location in 1992 that a student named Jennifer Lynn Stone was murdered. Even though police obtained a DNA profile of the killer, he has never been caught.

Jennifer Lynn Stone was a pretty advertising student at the University of Georgia. Her drive, personality, and intelligence made her a sure success in her chosen field. In the early morning hours of April 23, 1992, Jennifer stepped outside her home on North Hull Street. A few minutes later, she returned to a nightmare.

Athens-Clarke County police investigators later surmised that a burglar entered her house during the brief time she was away. When Jennifer came back inside, she was forced to her bedroom and raped. Then she was strangled to death.

The assailant left Jennifer’s home, described by an Athens Banner-Herald reporter as a “carriage house,” and walked down the street to where a crack dealer waited. “We know that Jenny was...alive at 1:00 a.m.,” former investigator J. W. Smith said, “because that’s when her boyfriend called to check on her...Her cameras were being sold or traded for dope at around 3:00 a.m.”

During interrogations, local dope dealers told cops that the assailant was a stranger to them. Investigators figured he was passing through. He was described as a light-skinned African-American with a thin mustache. DNA collected from the scene confirmed that he was of mixed race. Investigators later took samples from dozens of people, but none matched.

After murdering the innocent coed, the killer calmly walked down West Hancock Avenue and ended up at a pool hall “where the dopers hung out.” According to the Banner-Herald, “the man traded one of Stone’s cameras there for a rock of crack cocaine, then crossed West Broad Street to trade the other camera for more crack at the Parkview Homes housing complex.”

The next morning, Jennifer was scheduled to meet several classmates to work on a project for their advertising class. After she failed to show up, friends stopped by to investigate. They found Jennifer lying motionless on the floor in her home.

Most investigators think the killer was a transient who quickly left Athens behind in a Greyhound Bus. The depot was close by, and it would have been easy for him to catch a ride and never be seen again.

Each month, year after year, police submit the murderer’s DNA profile into the FBI’s national database, hoping for a match. Someday they might get lucky: the killer no doubt was a crackhead who has probably been arrested numerous times--that is, if he’s still alive.

The Athens Banner-Herald once sued the department to obtain files from the case under Georgia’s open records law. They lost the suit, however, so much of the information obtained by police will remain secret until the culprit is caught. Or until investigators determine that he may have died of old age.

Anyone who has information on this case should contact the Georgia Bureau of Investigation at 1-800-597-TIPS.

1 comment:

Nicola said...

Thank you for writing about Jennifer's unsolved and untimely death. She was a lovely person in all senses of the word -- kind, talented, outgoing and vivacious. Her passion for photograhy and life in general were evident to all of us who had the opportunity to get to know her. No person or family should ever have to experience such a horrific act. Jenny you are still loved and remembered.

- ND in Minnesota