Preserved DNA evidence helps solve 30-year-old Starkville Cold Case

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Solving a murder case has never been easy.

Thirty years ago, before DNA testing was widely used, it was even more of a challenge.

“At the time, in the early 90’s I don’t believe we had as sophisticated DNA testing as we have today, either,” said former Starkville Police Chief Bud Maxey.

Bud Maxey was the Chief of Police in Starkville at the time of Betty Jone’s murder.

He worked hand-in-hand with former lead investigator David Lindley and former Oktibbeha County Sheriff Dolph Bryan.

“It was the culmination of a lot of years and wondering what was going to happen with this case, and I was very glad to see this time come up today and for this to be settled and solved once and for all,” said Bryan.

Since then, Bill Lott has taken over the investigation. He said it would be an impossible case to solve, had it not been for Maxey, Lindley, and Bryan. All three believed in the science.

“But he told her back then, never give up. Because the science wasn’t there yet. I mean in 1990, DNA was not even online. It was ’95 before seven states go online, but he told her, never give up. She listened to him, and she went through five chiefs, and numerous detectives, based off of what Bud Maxey told her, and he told her right,” said Lott.

And he was right. The preserved DNA was crucial evidence for the case.

“We managed to preserve our evidence and all that and keep at it,” said Maxey.

As time passed, though, investigators weren’t sure if the case would be solved in their lifetime.

“This was on my bucket list. I’d like to see this case get solved, and somebody have to answer for what they did, and he answered for it today,” said Bryan.

Time was also on the minds of the victims’ families.

“We listened very closely to what the victims wanted. A lot of them were older and they wanted to try to get it resolved quickly and they wanted justice after waiting 30 years, so we really tried to push it as fast as we could,” said District Attorney Scott Colom.

The case has been through multiple departments, several chiefs, and a few different investigators, but all of those involved agree on one thing.

“It could not have been solved without DNA,” said Bryan.

Michael Devaughn accepted life in prison without parole as part of Tuesday’s plea deal.

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