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Arrests In 5 More Baffling Cold Case Murders With The Help Of ‘Cold Justice’
The “Cold Justice” team helped bring about arrests in the cold case murders of Cynthia Smith, Heyzel Obando, Johnnie Allbritton, and more.
This article was originally published in March 2020 and has been updated to reflect a new season of "Cold Justice."
Oxygen’s hard-hitting true crime investigative series “Cold Justice,” which returns Sunday, November 6 at 8/7c on Oxygen, has been delving into baffling small-town murder cases that have lingered for years — and sometimes decades — with no new leads.
But veteran prosecutor Kelly Siegler and her rotating team of detectives have been making a big impact, as their tireless work and years of experience have boosted investigative efforts and helped bring suspects to justice. In fact, arrests have been made in many of the cases.
From executive producer Dick Wolf and award-winning producers Magical Elves, the series follows Siegler and her team,, as they dig into small-town cases that have sat for years without justice for victims. The “Cold Justice” team has worked with local law enforcement across the country on more than 70 cases, successfully helping to bring 51 arrests and 21 convictions.
Before “Cold Justice” premieres Sunday, November 6 at 8/7c on Oxygen, here’s a look at the five recent cases where the team worked with local law enforcement agencies to help nab suspects who had long eluded the law.
The Decapitation Of Cynthia Smith
It’s been more than 30 years since 31-year-old Cynthia Smith disappeared in Mount Vernon, Missouri, after dropping her children with a babysitter, according to local outlet KYTV.
Her body was found — with the head unattached — the following month, in August 1988. Advanced decomposition had set in, turning her body to a skeleton and making it nearly impossible to determine a cause of death, according to “Cold Justice.”
But at long last, the first arrest in the case was made in September 2019. Lawrence Timmons, 65, was indicted for Smith’s murder while he was in jail on unrelated charges, a Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office release stated.
Timmons already had a kidnapping conviction on his record, having abducted and held an 11-year-old boy in 1976, KYTV reported. The boy was held captive for an afternoon at gunpoint and forced into Timmons’ basement where the man shoved his head into a cooler of water before getting interrupted by visitors, allowing the child to make a run for it. Timmons spent just three years in prison for the crime.
He was questioned in 1988 over Smith’s disappearance but was not charged with the murder, the outlet reports.
Aside from the boy’s kidnapping, Timmons was charged, between 1976 and 1994, with a home invasion against a college-aged woman and the gunpoint rape of another woman. He was acquitted at trial of the rape charge. He was convicted of robbery, but later had that conviction vacated on appeal, according to USA Today.
On Sept. 6, 2019, A Lawrence County grand jury indicted Timmons for Smith’s murder, after an extensive re-examination of the case.
Siegler said that she did not start looking at the Smith murder with great expectations, according to the Springfield News-Leader.
“It’s so old …” she told the outlet. “I went into this with low expectations, but, my God, look what happened.”
Single Mom Heyzel Obando’s Valentine’s Day 2016 Murder
When 26-year-old mom Heyzel Obando was found dead in her Fort Myers apartment on Valentine’s Day 2016, authorities immediately had suspicions about her live-in boyfriend, Earl Antonio Joiner.
Obando’s boyfriend was the one who called 911, but he was unhelpful to investigators, according to the News-Press, a South Florida USA Today Affiliate.
However, it took two months to officially rule her death a homicide, and it wasn’t until June 2019 that authorities make an arrest.
Joiner, 33, is a former player for the Florida Gators, and had been arrested twice for alleged domestic violence against Obando in 2013. He was arrested and charged with second-degree murder on June 8, 2019, Fort Myers Police announced.
Police have not revealed the exact details of what led to Joiner’s arrest, but they did mention working closely with “Cold Justice” and other law enforcement teams helped break the case.
“The arrest of Joiner was the culmination of a multi-agency effort which dedicated itself to the investigation,” they wrote.
The “Cold Justice” team brought in new experts to put fresh eyes on the case, and helped investigators conduct interviews with more than 50 witnesses, the News-Press reported.
Isabel del Carmen Martinez, Obando’s mother, has been taking care of the couple’s two young daughters, ages 3 and 6, since the 2017 murder, according to the News-Press.
"I don't know whether to get happy or to cry," she said, after learning of Joiner’s arrest. "Because I see it, but I don't believe it."
The 30-Year-Old Mystery Of A Husband Killed With His Own Shotgun
On May 14, 1984, Johnnie Albritton was found dead in his Buffalo, Texas home, shot five times with his own shotgun, according to the Washington Post.
Authorities at the time believed that Johnnie had walked in on a burglary in progress and was shot by the perps. But some odd details stuck with investigators for years after the case was abandoned. There were no signs of a break-in, for one, and the only fingerprints in the home belonged to the family, according to the Buffalo Express newspaper.
And there was the matter of his wife, Norma: She missed a scheduled polygraph test two weeks after the murder as she had accidentally shot herself with a shotgun the morning of the test, the Washington Post reported.
In July 2019, authorities arrested Norma, 84, for her husband’s murder.
Leon County Sheriff Keith Ellis digitized the case files around the 30th anniversary of the shooting in 2015, and contacted “Cold Justice,” which took on the case. The show’s team also brought cutting-edge new technology to the investigation and more than 50 witnesses were interviewed, the Palestine Herald reported.
“I won’t rest,” Ellis said. “I don’t think my investigators will rest, until everyone involved in this case, and with other possible crimes related to it, are brought to justice.”
Ellis told Oxygen.com that the “Cold Justice” team was of substantial help with finally arresting a suspect in Johnnie’s murder.
“It’s just amazing to work with them,” he said. “To have them come in and work with my guys, it put a new view of an older case and all of them put their thoughts together with my investigators and pieced the case together.”
Stacey Devine’s Unsolved 2016 Strangulation Death
On Feb. 12, 2016, an unidentified woman’s body was found lying in a ditch in Jonesboro, Arkansas by a man and his daughter walking their dog nearby. She had been strangled to death.
The next day, Emanuel Allen positively identified her as his mother, Stacey Devine.
Friends told police that in the days before Devine’s death, she had warned them repeatedly that if something happened to her, they could be sure it was at the hands of her estranged husband, Charles, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com.
Allen told local media that Stacey was a wonderful woman: “She was the person that, if you were having a bad day, go talk to her and I promise you’ll walk away with her smile,” he said, local station KAIT8 reported.
Friend Tiffany McDonald said that Stacey’s last name was appropriate. “She was very divine,” McDonald told local NBC affiliate WMC5.
Police interviewed many witnesses and found that Stacey’s marriage was beyond problematic — she was planning on leaving Charles to stay with her son in an apartment on the day she died, according to the affidavit.
A number of Stacey's friends even told police that they had heard Charles say that if his wife ever left him, he would kill her, the affidavit stated.
Detectives interviewed Charles a couple days after Stacey's body was found, and his behavior left them less than convinced of his innocence, according to KAIT8.
Charles apparently lied about his whereabouts on the day Stacey was killed — which detectives were able to figure out by analyzing his cellphone records. And when they called him to inform him of his wife's death and ask him to come ID the body, Charles complained that he was already on his way to Memphis.
On his way back to Jonesboro, he stopped for fried chicken, the affidavit stated.
Siegler and Spingola from “Cold Justice” lent Jonesboro authorities a hand and, in July 2019, Charles was finally hauled in and charged with his wife's death.
The investigators interviewed many witnesses, including one woman who claimed to have been having an affair with Charles at the time Stacey was murdered. New information came to light and pointed to Charles as a viable suspect in the murder.
Aspiring Cop Keith Alan Jones’ 1997 Motel Room Murder
Keith Jones was a 27-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran and recent police academy graduate with a bright future when he was found shot to death in a Fort Myers motel room back in June 1997, according to the Fort Myers Neighbor newspaper.
Twenty-two years later, Fort Myers Police Chief Derrick Diggs announced that there had finally been an arrest in the case. The police department and state attorney's office had recently formed a new team with a renewed interest in cold cases, according to the News-Leader, a local affiliate of USA Today.
“Cold Justice” joined the efforts to find Jones' killer in 2019. The move came after the team had success with three prior cases in Fort Myers.
Michelle Ashley also known as Michelle Jackson, was charged with first-degree murder in Jones' death, which police said happened during a robbery, the News-Leader reported.
But according to authorities and witnesses interviewed on “Cold Justice,” as many as five people may have been involved in Jones’ murder. Diggs himself said authorities expect more arrests, confirming that Ashley likely didn't act alone.
“Our work in this case is not over,” Diggs said. “We will continue to work tirelessly to bring everyone involved in this senseless murder to justice.”
At the news conference announcing the first arrest in Jones' murder, Diggs also warned any other potential suspects still out there: “You know who you are. You can come forward and speak to us now, or we will come and find you.”
Join Kelly Siegler and her team on the new season of “Cold Justice,” as they dive deep into similar cases.
“Cold Justice” premieres Saturday, November 6 at 8/7c on Oxygen.