Watauga County sheriff reveals how they solved cold case murder decades later

BOONE, N.C. — For the first time, deputies in Boone are releasing details about how they were able to crack a 50-year-old cold case surrounding the deaths of the Durham family in 1972.

According to reports, a couple and their teenage son were found bound and strangled to death inside a bathtub inside their home.

Channel 9′s Dave Faherty said he has been closely monitoring the case, and spoke with the sheriff of Watauga County about why he believes the case has now been closed.

Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman said there is no doubt in his mind who is responsible for the murders of Bryce and Virginia Durham and their teenage son Bobby.

Family members said they discovered the family dead inside of their home west of Boone 50 years ago.

But deputies said it was only in the last few years that they began to make real progress in the case.

“What I do have is a confession from the last living individual who was there that night,” said Hagaman.

Official said 81-year-old Billy Wayne Davis is serving a life sentence for another murder in Georgia and was part of the Dixie Mafia, a Georgia-based criminal organization.

This week, investigators said Davis told them that he dropped off three other Dixie Mafia members at the Durham’s home the night of the murders.

Officials said crime scene photos show the home was ransacked and Bryce Durham’s SUV was stolen. Investigators said they learned of Davis’ involvement because the son of one of the other suspects spoke with deputies in Georgia.

Channel 9′s Dave Faherty said he spoke with a different son who recalls his father talking about the murders in Boone.

“About one time he was in North Carolina in a snowstorm that almost locked him in on a hit. And that was the clue that connected the dots,” Billy Birt, the suspect’s son said.

Hagaman described the murders as a “hired hit,” but said Davis either isn’t saying or doesn’t know who hired the men.

Hagaman said with the three other suspects dead, those answers may have been taken to the grave.

He said the men were responsible for other murders throughout the southeast, usually with a common motive.

“Money, cash, whatever they could find. It’s no secret they had other homicides they committed for money,” Hagaman said.

Hagaman said he can’t say for sure if money was stolen from the victim’s home.

As far as Billy Wayne Davis, officials said its unlikely prosecutors would go after him due to his age, and because he is serving a life sentence in Georgia.

(WATCH BELOW: Murder suspect’s son recalls clues from father that cracked 1972 Boone cold case)