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Eight deaths unsolved since 1970s
Two missing men also on cold case list

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cold cases in Henry County date back to the 1970s, according to Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry and Special Investigations Lt. Curtis Spence.

From earliest to most recent, they are:

• Pancho Hairston, 16, who left his home in Axton between 12:15 and 5 a.m. on March 26, 1970. On April 18, his body was found near Mitchell Road. An autopsy showed he was killed by a close range shotgun blast to his back. Virginia State Police officers were lead investigators on the case at the time.

• Macy Conrad Watkins, 25, who was found June 1, 1970, lying in the road about a mile from his home on Old Liberty Drive in Axton. He last was seen alive at Byrd’s Store late on May 31, 1970. When his body was found, Watkins had a laceration to his head believed to have been caused by a tool. The cause of death is thought to be blunt force trauma.

• Frank Hobson, whose body was found Nov. 28, 1980, in a wooded area outside of Martinsville. An autopsy showed that he died from a gunshot to the head. His 1974 Cadillac was missing, along with a large sum of money. The vehicle, found in Martinsville the next day, had blood inside. When last seen, Hobson was with friends at a known gambling place in Martinsville. He was 41.

• Ether Smith, of Rivermont Heights, who was 38 when her neighbors reported her missing on Nov. 30, 1989. They told authorities that she had not been seen since Nov. 23, 1989, and that it was odd for her to leave for such an extended time without telling them.

On June 18, 2001, Smith’s remains were recovered from Philpott Lake, near Union Bridge, by the Henry County Sheriff’s Office’s Scuba Search and Recovery Team. She had been placed head-first into a barrel that was then sealed. An autopsy found that Smith suffered two gunshot wounds to the head. Officers in Henry and Patrick counties worked jointly on the case after the barrel was pulled from the water on the Patrick County side of the lake.

• The remains of James Barker, 68, which were found off Conway Drive on Oct. 9, 1990, near a creek which he frequented to get water for his home. Barker had duct tape on one wrist and on his forehead. He was known to carry a large amount of money, but none was found on his body. An autopsy showed that Barker died from blunt force trauma to the mouth and throat.

• James Blankenship, whose body was found around 8 a.m. on June 18, 1991, in the Fairy Stone Hotel in Collinsville when a patron grew concerned when Blankenship — who had lived at the hotel since that April — did not answer his door or phone. He was found half dressed in a bathtub filled with water, with bruises and lacerations to various parts of his body. One of the windows to his room had been broken, the room was in disarray and a broken chair was nearby. Robbery was suspected at the time of the incident.

• Andrea Harbour, 36, of 372 Powell Road, Ridgeway, whose partially decomposed body was found down an embankment along Powell Road on Sept. 13, 2008. She was last seen alive on Sept. 8. The cause of her death was a single gunshot wound to the upper torso.

• Michael Short, 50, and his wife, Mary Short, 36, who were found around 9 a.m. on Aug. 15, 2002, in their Oak Level home. Michael Short’s body was found on a couch inside an attached garage of their home with an apparent gunshot wound to his head. Mary Short was found lying in her bed. She also suffered an apparent gunshot wound to the head.

The couple’s daughter, Jennifer Renee Short, 9, was missing and presumed abducted by her parents’ killer or killers. Her remains were found on Sept. 25, 2002, along a stream bed off Grogan Road in Stoneville in Rockingham County, N.C. Jennifer also suffered a gunshot wound to the head.

The cases of two missing men are among Henry County’s cold cases.

• Brian Kidd’s family members told authorities on Dec. 12, 1994, that Kidd had been missing since Aug. 23, 1993. He was last seen that day around 1 a.m., walking from 515 Richardson Road, Collinsville. The missing person report was filed after the family received an anonymous call that Kidd had been shot and killed.

On Feb. 1, 2004, Robert W. Reynolds called the 911 Center to turn himself in because he said he had shot and killed Kidd in August 1993 and then hid the body in the woods at the end of Richardson Drive.

“We did a very thorough search over an extremely large area,” but none of Kidd’s remains were recovered, Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry said.

Reynolds was released after a preliminary hearing was held and it was ruled there was not enough evidence to hold him for trial.

Kidd still is considered a missing person.

• Keith Fetter, 41, went to his estranged wife’s home on Mathew’s Mill Road with friends on May 24, 2008. He left with friends, and at the intersection of Mathew’s Mill and Wingfield Orchard Road, he reportedly got out of the car and ran across the field opposite Mathew’s Mill Road.

Fetter has not been seen since.

Anyone with any information on any cold or active case is asked to call Spence at the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, 638-8751.


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