Murder suspect’s son recalls clues from father that cracked 1972 Boone cold case

BOONE, N.C. — After 50 years, Watauga County deputies were able to close a cold case surrounding the murder of the Durham family in Boone.

Back in 1972, Bryce, Virginia, and their son Bobby were found strangled to death in their bathroom. Watauga County deputies said four suspects are now connected to their murders. Those suspects have ties to a group called the Dixie Mafia and investigators say the murders were a hired hit.

“It’s a big relief to all of us here,” said Pat Maddux, whose husband was an SBI agent who spent years following leads in this case. “Something like that had never happened here before,” she said.

Bryce Durham owned a car dealership in Boone. His vehicle was stolen the night of the murders and the family’s silverware was later found inside the SUV. Following Tuesday’s announcement on the developments in the case, Durham’s daughter thanked all the people who worked for decades on her family’s case.

Deputies said they were able to solve the case after getting a tip from the son of one of the suspects, who remembered his dad talking about killing three people in the North Carolina mountains.

Channel 9′s Dave Faherty spoke to Billy Sunday Birt’s son about that conversation.

“He would just sort of hint every once in a while, he’d say something about this particular case,” Billy Birt said. “He told my baby brother about one time he was in North Carolina in a snow storm about locked in on a hit and that was the clue that connected the dots.”

Birt also told Channel 9 his dad had maps of several locations were victims’ bodies have been found. Faherty asked about the group his father was a part of -- the Dixie Mafia.

“They was a loose group of locals who learned how to rub two quarters together and make a dollar without working, and got away with it for 15 years,” Birt said. “Hauled more whiskey than anyone in history and that led to other things. Bank robberies ... murder for hire; they’d all come to my father for the dirty work so that’s as mafia as it was. It’s not what people think.”

Birt said the Durham family weren’t his father’s first victims.

“I know this sounds crazy to you, but my father killed over a hundred people,” he said.

Three of the four suspects are dead, including Billy Birt’s father. Billy Wayne Davis has been in prison for 35 years, serving a life sentence for a murder in Augusta, Georgia.

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