The evidence that led to the arrest of a man 26 years after he allegedly killed an 87-year-old woman was fingerprints, a family member said Tuesday.
The Rev. Dennis Dunbar, Pauline McCoy’s grandson, said Richmond County Sheriff’s investigator Ashley Pletcher told him fingerprints on his grandmother’s windowsill and one that was smeared in blood linked Jimmy Riley to her death.
Lt. Blaise Dresser, the supervisor of violent crimes, wouldn’t comment on Dunbar’s statement, but said in the last month or so Pletcher came across something that connected Riley directly to the murder.
“Things were a lot different in 1986,” Dresser said, commenting on the advancement in crime technology.
Riley was at his home in the 2300 block of Allen Avenue on Monday morning when he was arrested on charges of armed robbery, burglary, possession of a knife during the commission of a crime and murder.
Deputies found McCoy stabbed to death in the living room of her Hyde Park home in 1986. The cause of death was listed as strangulation, blunt force trauma and stab wounds, according to a release by Dresser.
The case went cold at the time, only to be reopened periodically throughout the years. Recently, it was reexamined by Pletcher.
“(Pletcher) has a fascination with cold cases,” Dresser said. “Periodically she will check them.”
As soon as she had a positive ID, Dresser said he and Pletcher immediately started working the case.
McCoy’s murder was not the first violent death her family has dealt with.
A year before she died, McCoy’s oldest son was stabbed in New York City. That case remains unsolved.
“Why has our family had to go through this twice?” asked her other grandson, the Rev. Eddie Dunbar. “I still don’t know the answer to that.”
Dunbar traveled with McCoy to New York to identify her son and his father. He remembers his grandmother being strong.
“(Riley) took a lot away from our lives,” he said. “She was a strong woman, a proud woman. She was everything you could want in a grandmother.”
Dennis Dunbar vividly remembers the day he got a call from then-Maj. Ronnie Strength telling him he needed to get to his grandmother’s house as soon as possible. He was putting on a Christmas program at North Augusta Baptist Church.
“It’s still like it just happened yesterday,” Dunbar said. “I wondered who she called for, was it me? Was it my brother?”
Growing up, the brothers spent nearly every weekend with McCoy. They would walk to Broad Street and have hot dogs and soda.
McCoy was a straight talker, her grandsons said, always giving life advice.
“She always said, ‘You might get by, but you never get away’,” said Dennis Dunbar. “What she meant is, you will always have to answer for what you’ve done.”
That statement strikes a particular note with him considering the events of the past two days, he said.
Dunbar said Riley’s face looks vaguely familiar but he does not recognize his name, even though Riley lived in McCoy’s neighborhood at the time.
“I have forgiven him ... I will not spend a lot of time thinking about him,” Eddie Dunbar said. “I will reflect on the goodness of my grandmother.”
Both brothers said they appreciated the Richmond County Sheriff’s investigators determination to find their grandmother’s killer.
“We are forever indebted to them for not giving up,” Eddie Dunbar said. “We finally have some closure.”