KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — A team of Kannapolis detectives is dedicated to finding answers in decades-old homicide cases that have since gone cold.
One of those happened 30 years ago, when a teenage boy found was dead in the woods. Channel 9 was there on that June evening in 1993.
14-year-old Carlos Jones’ body was found off of Wood Road, near the Happy Hollow community in Kannapolis. Police said the cause of his death was blunt force trauma, which left the community and detectives wondering who would do that to a teenage boy.
“At this time, we are interviewing a good number of people but we do not have any new leads at this time,” Kannapolis police said then.
It’s now been almost 30 years with no arrests, but Kannapolis detectives looking into the case now are not giving up.
”For a parent, to lose their 14-year-old child -- I don’t know them from Adam, you know, I’m not a part of this family,” said Kannapolis Police Detective Sgt. Alex Quigley with the Criminal Investigation Department. “But this is something -- in the grand scheme of things, is small -- that I can do for them.”
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With a case this old, there was not a lot of information online from that day. To learn who Carlos Jones was, Channel 9′s Hannah Goetz went looking for answers in a museum created by the Kannapolis History Associates.
‘Things like that just didn’t happen’
In old newspaper clippings, Goetz found a picture of Jones and an article mentioning his love for football. She flipped through the Northwest Cabarrus Middle School yearbook until she found retired football coach Doug Kirkman. 30 years later, Kirkman told her he still remembers Jones.
“He was just enjoying life and moving from elementary school to middle school, and enjoying playing on the football team,” Kirkman said.
Kirkman said he doesn’t remember a lot of detail, but he wants to bring justice to his former player and student.
“There’s somebody that knows something, and we all need to keep pushing it,” he told Goetz. “And if we can just touch with the right person, you know, then maybe this thing will have closure.”
Kirkman still keeps in contact with his old students and introduced us to one -- David Nance.
“It kind of hit the neighborhood hard,” Nance remembered.
He’s a few years older than Jones, but grew up on the street behind him.
“Things like that just didn’t happen,” he said.
Nance said the two spent their summer days playing outside. He remembers Jones being a standout on the neighborhood kickball team.
“He come over, he could kick missile ball. And we just had such a good time, you know, playing in the yard, just being typical everyday American kids,” he said.
Jones’ older sister, Makeitha Webb, played in that same group.
“He was the only boy, so, you know, he got away with a lot,” Webb said.
She told Goetz she was just 16 at the time of her brother’s death. Her mom died one year later, leaving her to raise her younger sister. It forced her to grow up fast.
Webb said this is the first time in 30 years she’s really talked about what happened. She met Goetz at Veteran’s Park to talk, but, understandably, did not want to be on camera.
“I felt like I could have been there when -- I know I couldn’t have at this time. But at that time, I felt like I should have been there, I don’t know,” she said.
Webb said it was a difficult decision to talk to Goetz about Jones, but felt like it was something she needed to do.
“I want everyone to know that he was a real sweet kid. He was a good kid,” she said. “And if anyone knows anything that could help out, then step forward and do it. It’s been 30 years. He deserves some type of justice.”
A spark in the case: DNA
Detectives now hope for that same justice. Joe Vanskiver is the lead investigator on the case. With a decades-old investigation, there are some major challenges -- like new housing that’s changed the layout of the original crime scene location.
“Basically, back behind this house, there was a bunch of cut-throughs,” Vanskiver said.
But the investigation has a fresh spark.
“I started to go through what little evidence there is and nothing had ever been tested for DNA,” he said.
He found new technology called M-Vac Systems, which vacuums DNA off evidence and catches it in a collection bottle. It is then concentrated onto a filter and sent to the state lab for testing.
“It’s kind of hard to dispute that if your DNA is now found at the crime scene, especially on 30-year-old evidence, how can you argue that?” Vanskiver asked.
The testing process could take months, but investigators are hopeful.
“It means a lot, it means everything to us to be able to at least try something that we can do,” Sgt. Quigley said. “And hopefully one day, find out who did it and make that arrest.”
(WATCH: Channel 9 takes a look at Kannapolis cold cases that date back decades)
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