Man on trial in 26-year-old unsolved homicide

Nearly 27 years after an elderly Augusta woman was brutally killed in her home, Jim­my Lee Riley is standing trial on charges of murder and burglary.

Riley, 53, has pleaded not guilty to all charges in Rich­mond County Superior Court.

Tim Heffner was a rookie with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office on Dec. 21, 1986, when Pauline McCoy’s neighbors called the department, worried because they hadn’t seen her all day.

Heffner was sent to do a welfare check on the 87-year-old. After knocking and trying the front and side doors, Heffner walked behind the house and saw an open window. After clearing it with his supervisor, he crawled through.

It was a bathroom window, Heffner said on the witness stand Monday, and he immediately began calling out, but no one answered. He found McCoy in the living room, naked on the floor in a pool of blood.

McCoy had been badly beaten, strangled and stabbed with a large butcher knife investigators found near her body, Assistant Dis­trict Attorney Falin Syms told the jury Monday in her opening statement.

McCoy’s blood-soaked housecoat was draped over her pelvic area. A blood-soaked, ripped tank top was found nearby, Syms said. Both doors had been barricaded. It appeared that someone had searched the living room and bedroom.

The most promising evidence was bloody fingerprints found on the siding outside the open window, Richmond County Marshal Steve Smith said in his testimony. In 1986, he was a sheriff’s investigator assigned to violent crimes.

The portion of siding with the fingerprints was cut out to save as evidence. Though the investigation turned up more than a dozen potential suspects, the prints never matched anyone, including Riley, Smith said.

The prints were checked again in 2012, Syms said in her opening statement. This time sheriff’s investigators believed they had a match to Riley, and a Georgia Bureau of Investigation fingerprint expert also ruled it a match, Syms said.

Defense attorney Robert Chan of the public defender’s office told the jury that there were problems with the treatment of the fingerprints.

He said that while the GBI expert wasn’t told of the local department’s findings, he was sent only one suspect’s prints – Riley’s – to compare to the evidence collected at the crime scene.

Unsolved homicides still affect Augusta families
Crime Scene Unit helps solve cold cases
Arrest made in 1986 slaying of Pauline McCoy

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