The murder charge against suspect Dana Martin Grantham, who was already in prison serving time for killing a Hartwell man in 2001, was particularly satisfying for Elbert County Sheriff Melvin Andrews. When he ran for sheriff in 2012, one of his campaign promises was to reopen old murder cases in the county.
“That’s what we did,” Andrews said this week. “We got in with the district attorney and the GBI, and we were able to move on it.”
The investigation culminated in early June with the filing of murder and armed robbery charges against Grantham for the killing of Jimmy Webb, a 67-year-old man slain in October 2000 at his home in Elberton.
Citizens “are glad we did it,” Andrews said, “but it was a joint effort with the GBI and District Attorney (Parks) White. I’m humbled by the way the district attorney and the GBI worked with me.”
During the reopened investigation, two lawmen who originally worked the crime for the sheriff’s office returned to take a new look at the evidence. Darren Scarborough, who came back into the sheriff’s office as a lieutenant when Andrews was elected, joined with retired investigator Mike Thompson to review the case file, according to Andrews.
The renewed investigation helped lead to the arrest of Grantham, a 59-year-old man who is currently serving a 20-year-term at the Hays State Prison in Trion for voluntary manslaughter in the slaying of a Hartwell man.
But an arrest in this case isn’t the end of cold case investigations. There are other unsolved slayings in Elbert County, some dating back to the 1970s, that Andrews wants investigators to review.
“We’ll definitely look at some to see what we can do. Some are real old, and I don’t know if we can do anything,” he said. Some are more recent, though, including the case of a man killed last year on Pulliam Mill Road.
Among the slayings that have gone unsolved for years are incidents in the small community of Dewy Rose, which had its share of violence in the mid-1970s.
In January 1975, then-Elbert County Sheriff Adger Moore’s deputies began investigating the slaying of 72-year-old J.B. Gordon, found dead with his hands tied in his home on Nicksville Road north of Elberton. His wife and 82-year-old sister-in-law were violently beaten and had to be hospitalized. Moore had moved to the area just two years earlier from Miami.
He was killed by “a masked bandit” who came to their home at night and forced his way inside, according to newspaper accounts. “We’re not going to let up,” Moore told a reporter at the time.
The Gordon slaying occurred in the wake of the June 1974 slayings of two brothers, Dwayne Cooper, 13, and David Cooper, 11, who were shot to death in their Dewy Rose home. Their father was wounded in the crime.
Some people think the same person is responsible for the Gordon and Cooper slayings, Andrews said.