Thursday marked the 50th anniversary of a horrifying triple murder, and now deputies say they know who committed the crime.
Four men attacked Bryce Durham, 51, his wife Virginia Durham, 44, and their son Bobby Durham, 18, during a snowstorm Feb. 3, 1972, leaving their bodies in a bathtub. Only one member of the suspect group remains living, locked up in prison at a nearby state. Billy Wayne Davis, 81, confessed to playing a role in the murders, though he asserted he was only the getaway driver, according to The Watauga County Sheriff’s Office. He maintained that Billy Sunday Birt, Bobby Gene Gaddis, and Charles David Reed were the ones who entered that home in Boone, North Carolina, all those years ago.
Bryce’s and Virginia’s son-in-law Troy Hall found the family dead after Virginia managed to call him. He and the couple’s daughter Ginny Sue Hall checked on them with a neighbor’s help. Virginia had been strangled to death while Bryce and Bobby were drowned, according to the autopsy report obtained by The Charlotte Observer.
“The house had been ransacked,” the Observer previously wrote about Hall and a neighbor, private detective Cecil Small, finding the bodies. “The telephone cord was ripped from the wall. Blood spattered the den. The television was on. But its sound was muffled by the steady swoosh of running water. The two men followed the noise to a bathroom where they found three bodies, their heads dangling in an overflowing bathtub.”
Birt, Gaddis, and Reed have since died, but according to Watauga authorities, Birt’s son Shane went to the White County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia to participate in research for a book about crimes in the state. What he shared was music to the ears of investigators. Shane said his father told him a story during a prison visit about killing three people in the North Carolina mountains during a heavy snowstorm. They almost got caught, Birt said.
Having heard the lead, White County deputies reached out to their counterparts in Watauga Count, North Carolina. Those investigators in turn interviewed Davis. Online records say Davis is currently locked up at the Augusta State Medical Prison for a 1971 murder. In this account, he said that the murders were a hired “hit.” Unfortunately, investigators don’t know who ordered this purported hit.
All four men, led by Birt, belonged to the loosely affiliated “Dixie Mafia.”
Ginny Hall welcomed the new announcement about finding her family’s four killers.
“I would like to thank all of the people who worked for decades on my family’s case,” she said. “I know that they sacrificed many days and weekends in order to work on solving this case since 1972. I would especially like to thank Len Hagaman, Sheriff of Watauga County, who has been involved from the beginning and was dedicated to a closure for myself and my family; Wade Colvard, SBI Special Agent; Carolynn Johnson, Captain of Investigations for Watauga County Sheriff’s Office; and Charles Whitman, SBI Special Agent, who continued to work on the case, even in retirement. I am so grateful for his help and friendship during the difficult years.”
[Prison photo via Georgia Department of Corrections]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]