The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Murder? 1956


A couple of weeks ago I received an email from Debra Gafnea, who grew up in Brighton but now lives in Florida. She informed me that her brother had been killed in 1956 but that the nature of his death has not been established. He was 19 years old at the time, and on his 19th birthday he died near the Warrior River on a lonely road. The death certificate states “severance of the left jugular vein” and authorities claim he died as a result of an automobile accident after going through the windshield, but there were no cuts or scratches on his face as one would expect after being thrown through the windshield. Also, witnesses said the windshield was not damaged in the way it would have been had someone gone through it.

This story has now been published in The Western Tribune, in an effort to assist Debra in having the case re-opened. There are witnesses who are still alive, and who may know more than they said 50 years ago. The story involves a girl, a threat from another young man, and a car full of teens. Fifty years ago forensics was not what it is today. Fifty years ago this family could not afford to pay for an investigation.
There has never been an investigation of this death. Forensics today could probably tell from the remains if his neck had been slashed with a knife, for instance.

I am posting this because not everyone will see the story in the Tribune, and maybe, just maybe this link will be seen by or forwarded to someone who knows something. Please forward this to anyone who lives or lived in West Jefferson county and might know something.

Read about the case from Debra’s point of view. Seeking Justice for Billy Gafnea



Here is a picture of Billy’s jeans, with what looks to me like a bullet hole.










A close up















One of the girls said that Billy had been dragged behind a car, and here is a picture of his shirt, which could certainly look this way after dragging.

I also have pictures of Billy’s face, which I am not posting, and as I said above, there are no scratches on it .

A newspaper article that I have seen from Dec. 7, 1956 states that one of the boys (whose name I know and who was from Bessemer) admitted taking the car to his grandmothers house and cutting it up and burning the upholstery. He was arrested for leaving the scene. The two girls, and two boys, who know more than they told in 1956, are still living. One of the boys lived on 8th Ave and the other on West Lake Drive in Bessemer at the time.

The murder of a 19 year old in 1956 is just as unsettling as the murder of a 14 year old in 2007.

3 comments:

Caren said...

My name is Caren, and Billy was my Uncle (that I never met) as I was born 10 years later. I have heard the stories of Billy my entire life, and I know that my Mom and all my Aunts and Uncles still feel such loss. I do believe things would have gone differently in 1956 if my Mama and Papa would have had the financial resources. If you have any information please come forward and help the eight surviving brothers and sisters find the TRUTH and finally have closure. Although it happened long ago it still affects many lives everyday.....
...Thank you Joe for taking the time to put Billys story out there.

Kathy said...

Joe, I hope your efforts yield some real results for this family. Truth does have a way of coming out, even fifty years too late.

Joe Openshaw said...

Caren, Let's hope and pray that someone will see this, or the paper (there will also be something in it next week)and come forward with information (or confession)and this will be resolved.

Kathy, thanks. Thomas Moore's search for justice for his brother's death in Mississippi gives me hope that this will also.