BISHOP, Ga. -- A telephone call from an undisclosed source has reopened the 41-year-old unsolved murder case of a 14-year-old girl who was bludgeoned to death in her Bishop home, according to Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry.
“We’re reopening it for the purposes of working the piece of information we have, and whether or not that leads to somewhere else we’ll have to see,” Berry said Monday.
Debra Ashe was found beaten with the stock of a rifle in her Price Mill Road home on Aug. 24, 1970, and died two days later at an Athens hospital, according to old newspaper reports.
The victim’s 7-year-old brother, who was a partial invalid and mentally handicapped, was in the house at the time, but was unable to tell officers what happened, according to the accounts.
Sheriff’s investigators reopened the case in August when a person called with some information, Berry said. Authorities filed a short incident report for the new investigation Thursday.
“We’re not in a position to tell what we were told. We have met with the entire family and discussed the case in broad generalities and some of the information we were given,” he said.
But investigating a murder that happened more than 40 years ago is a challenge, according to Berry.
“We’re having to recreate it from notes and old photography and diagrams that are still in existence,” he said. “We’re having to go back on the memories of some family members and neighbors who have been interviewed repeatedly, but interviewed in light of the information we were given.”
During the investigation into the slaying, former Sheriff Charles Holcomb, also a resident of Bishop, visited then-Gov. Lester Maddox to request additional manpower from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The governor did provide more GBI agents to the two already working the case, Holcomb said Monday.
“Sheriff Holcomb, the GBI and the DA’s office did a great job trying to follow up on this case. They seemed to have exhausted all the logical leads,” Berry said. “However, with this new information, we want to see if there’s anything we can develop.”
Investigator Dave Stauffacher has been assigned to investigate the new lead, but all investigators have reviewed the case as a team, according to Berry.
“It’s not a smoking-gun piece of information,” Berry said.
Two years after the slaying, Crime Magazine profiled the case.
According to the article, the victim’s body was found by a 16-year-old Athens boy and his sister, both of whom once lived in Bishop, along with an elderly couple who lived nearby.
Ashe was on the floor of her bedroom, partially nude, according to the article. Lawmen later announced that there was no evidence of rape, and Berry confirmed this.