Kentucky Fried Chicken murders
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The Kentucky Fried Chicken murders were an armed robbery and mass murder which took place at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Kilgore, Texas in 1983. For over two decades it was among the most tragic unsolved murder cases in Texas history.
1983 Robbery and Murders
On the evening of September 23, 1983, just before the restaurant closed, armed robbers held up the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Kilgore, Texas, USA. The five people in the restaurant at the time (who were either employees or waiting for someone there) were abducted, taken to a nearby field on County Road 232, and executed with a shot to the back of the head. One of the victims, who was found a short distance from the others, had been raped.
The victims' bodies were discovered by local police and Texas Rangers, and were identified as: David Maxwell (20), Joey Johnson (20), Monty Landers (19), Mary Tyler (37) and Opie Hughes (38).
For 22 years, the case remained unsolved; several people were arrested and one person, James Earl Mankins, Jr., an individual with prior drug convictions who was also the son of a state representative, was charged with the murders, but was later released after the beginning of pre-trial proceedings due to a lack of evidence.
Finally, in November 2005, two men (already in prison for other crimes) were arrested and charged: Cousins Darnell Hartsfield (44) and Romeo Pinkerton (47). At the time of arrest, Hartsfield was serving a life sentence for aggravated perjury in connection with the case. They were both charged with capital murder, and could have received the death penalty if convicted.
Jury selection in Pinkerton's trial began August 6, 2007 in New Boston and completed on September 27, 2007. Pinkerton's death penalty trial was scheduled to start at 9 a.m. on October 15, 2007 at the Bowie County Courthouse in New Boston. He pled guilty to five lesser counts of first degree murder on October 29, 2007 and received five concurrent life sentences as a part of his plea deal.
Hartsfield was convicted at trial in Bryan (Brazos County), Texas (on a change of venue from East Texas due to pre-trial publicity) and sentenced to five consecutive life sentences.
On February 4, 2010 the Texas Sixth Court of Appeals upheld the convictions of Darnell Hartsfield. It ruled that there was sufficient evidence for the conviction.
Possibility of Third Perpetrator
DNA evidence taken from Opie Hughes' body -- found some distance away from the rest of the victims -- indicated she had been sexually assaulted. However it did not match Hartsfield, Pinkerton, Mankins, nor any other suspects. This led investigators to the possibility of a third man. Neither of the two convicted felons ever revealed the UNSUB's identity's which indicates the third one may be a relative.
As of 2015 the Rangers are still investigating this case and searching for the third man.
- "30 Years Later: Kilgore KFC Murders". http://www.cbs19.tv. CBS. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
- "Man convicted in KFC deaths says ‘real killer out there". http://www.chron.com/. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
- "KFC murder conviction upheld". KLTV. Retrieved 11 July 2014.