The arrest Thursday of Eddie Jack Washington in the Windmill Park murders was possible because of the commitment of law enforcement, said Fairmont Police Chief Kelley D. Moran.
“Although there is still more investigative work to be done, the successful outcome of this decades-long investigation was only possible through the hard work and dedication of many investigators, Marion County Prosecutor’s Office and law enforcement agencies,” he said in a press release.
“Hopefully this will help bring some closure to the Phillips and Cobb families.
“We never forget about unsolved murder cases and continuously seek out new technology and new leads to help us solve them.”
In the morning hours of Aug. 2, 1974, lawn keepers found the bodies of the victims in an open field inside the city park and contacted Fairmont police.
Over the years, countless interviews and re-interviews have taken place, but leads grew cold.
The Fairmont Police Department expressed its sincere appreciation to police departments in both Carrboro and Chapel Hill, N.C.
“Their assistance made today a reality. Aspects of the case continue to be investigated; therefore further comment on the case would not be appropriate at this time.”
“Chief Moran contacted me several months ago and discussed the case,” said Alex Neville, supervisory deputy U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of West Virginia.
“He advised me there were persons of interest he wished to have located prior to he and any other detectives traveling to interview or attempt to make an arrest.”
Neville offered the assistance of the U.S. Marshals office to conduct the discreet locate, he said.
“This is when our investigators locate the suspect or witness for police, or foreign country in some cases, so they are not aware they’re under surveillance.
“A few months ago we were able to positively identify and establish his residence, and provided that information to Fairmont police.
“Early this week, we reconfirmed he was still at this location. The U.S. Marshals Task Force in Florida met investigators from Fairmont police at the airport and drove them to (Washington’s) residence.”
After Washington was arrested without incident at a Tampa grocery store, U.S. Marshals transported him to the local police station, Neville said.
There he was processed and interviewed. He will be arraigned at 8 a.m. Friday to determine if he will waive extradition to West Virginia to face triple first-degree murder charges.
“He was processed as a fugitive from justice. If he waives his right to an extradition hearing, he’ll be on his way back to Fairmont within the next few days.”
Apprehending a fugitive from justice in a cold case “is one of the most rewarding things,” he said.
“They assume they’ve outsmarted the law. They take on new identities, new Social Security cards, new driver’s licences.
“And then we show up — 20, 30 years down the road — knock on the door and put them in handcuffs.
“It is rewarding to carry out justice.”
But this case in particular has struck close to home for Neville, a Marion County native.
“I recall my parents talking about the murders when I was a small child. I read the Times West Virginian article that profiled the case.”
Entitled “Gruesome discovery: Triple slaying at Windmill Park remains unprosecuted,” the article was published Sept. 3, 2012.
Part of the “Marion County’s Most Notorious Crimes” series, the article detailed one of the county’s most infamous crimes.
“Not long after that was published, Chief Moran approached us for assistance,” Neville said.
“I reminisced with him memories about that event, listening to my parents around the dinner table, talking about this heinous crime.
“It was shocking to a small community like Fairmont.”
He gives Fairmont City Police full credit for the arrest.
“I was happy to assist them. We played a small role in this. I have to hand it to the investigators and the detective bureau and Chief Moran.
“They did not allow this case to sit on a shelf and fade away. They worked diligently, piecing together information.
“Most of the cops working on the original case have retired or passed on for decades.
“The amount of work and their diligence were quite impressive.”