If you were a kid in Nashville in the 1970s, the Marcia Trimble story probably changed the rules for your curfew, walking to school or simply playing outside.
Even if you are brand new to Nashville, sooner or later, someone will tell you about the Trimble case.
The 9-year-old was molested and killed in the Green Hills area of Nashville. Her killer remained at large until Jerome Sydney Barrett was charged with the assault and murder in 2008. Barrett was convicted and sentenced to 44 years in prison in 2009.
In the first part of this Channel 4 News report, you heard from Jeffrey Womack, who is speaking out for the first time about erroneously being the prime suspect for most of his adult life.
'You get all the crazies to come out'
Channel 4 News has obtained hours of tape recordings from the Trimble family telephone captured in the days and weeks following their daughter's death. Calls and messages were taped in hopes that a kidnapper or killer might one day call.
Someone called, alright - within days of Trimble's disappearance - and he may have known exactly who killed her.
But that was surrounded by the dozens and dozens of calls that never panned out.
"That phone was on fire," said retired Metro police officer Arlene Moore Burris. "Oh, there were so many leads. People calling in (saying), 'I see it over and over, and there are these visions. She's right there, but I don't think they're gonna find her alive.'"
"Some of it was nuts," Burris said. "In a situation like that, you get all the crazies to come out of the woodwork."
Call from anonymous informant
Yet in the earliest days of the investigation, a persistent caller would be dismissed.
"Charlie (Trimble, Marcia's father) got a call from a man who claimed to know where Marcia was," said Metro police Cpt. Mickey Miller.
"Hello? Mister Trimble?" the caller said. "Yes," Charlie Trimble replied. "OK, just listen for a minute. I'm about to tell you where your daughter is, if you could meet," the caller said. "Wait just a minute, let me get something to write on. OK, OK," Charlie Trimble said. "At 8:30 tonight, go to Waverly Belmont School on 10th Avenue South," the caller said. "OK," Charlie Trimble said. "Bring some money with you, 'cause I'm not gonna get killed over these dudes who got your daughter," the caller said. "What kind of money you talking about?" Charlie Trimble asked. "Just $300," the caller said.
"We got calls saying that she had been grabbed in the neighborhood by this black guy, and he had taken her over to this safe house," Burris said.
"Are these black man that have her?" Charlie Trimble asked. "Right," the caller said. "And she's here in town?" Charlie Trimble asked. "She's here in town. After I show you where she is, I wouldn't advise you to run in there by yourself," the caller said. "These dudes will hurt you. They will hurt you. As a matter of fact, I can tell you they are Muslims, OK? And I'm deathly afraid of them."
"That was never written down," Miller said. "They didn't take it serious at all, and I think that was a crucial point."
"I'll go with you," the caller said. "You'll go with me where?" Charlie Trimble asked. "To show you where she is," the caller said. "My wife says if you lead us to our daughter, you'll be our friend for life," Charlie Trimble said.
Burris said she and other investigators followed that lead.
"Maj. (George) Currey (commander of the Youth Guidance Division of the Nashville Police Department) sent Sgt. (Douglas) Dennis, me and some other of the detectives, and we went with patrol, and we went over and searched the house. She wasn't there," Burris said.
The same informant called back and noted the big scene police had created while checking that tip.
The caller said:
"I called (Metro police Chief Joe) Casey personally, you know, when this here thing was going on, and I told Mr. Casey - personally - where, you know, where he could find this man. He goes there with all those noise, kicking the doors in and going on, and he finds nothing. See what I'm saying? Only reason is, they went about it the wrong way. I sent them to the direct house. I'm not gonna mention the house, but I sent them to a direct house where they could pick this man up and question this man. But they went down, blocking off the whole street. He might have been over in the store somewhere. In other words, he wasn't in the house. But he was around somewhere where he could have seen them when they pulled in, you know what I'm saying. They just blew it, you know what I'm saying."
"That was never written down as well," Miller said. "There's nothing in the files. There's nothing anywhere in relation to this."
Identity lost to history
Thirty-three years after Marcia Trimble was murdered, DNA proved Barrett was the killer.
Just like that caller said, Barrett was a Muslim.
He lived at what was, then, a mosque.
And the same week Marcia Trimble disappeared in 1975, most of the Black Muslim congregation had gone to Chicago, where their leader, Elijah Muhammed, had died.
So who was the mystery caller - the informant?
We will never know. Police told Channel 4 earlier this summer that they had his name somewhere in the files.
However, they confirmed just a few weeks ago that the informant's name is nowhere to be found.
Full-hour documentary on Channel 4
Channel 4 knows how important this story is, and has been, to the community, so we are dedicating a full hour to the investigation of the Marcia Trimble case Saturday at 7 p.m.
The documentary is called Indelible: The case against Jeffrey Womack.
Copyright WSMV 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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