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‘A Brutal Scene’: 2 Women Who Worked In Atlanta Real Estate Sales Office Shot To Death
A model home turns into a death trap for two young women who worked in Atlanta real estate. Detectives race to catch their killer.
Two young women who were friends and real estate coworkers were shot to death in broad daylight in a peaceful Atlanta suburb. Who pulled the trigger – and why?
Officials faced that urgent question on November 3, 2003, when the bodies of Cynthia “Cyndi” Williams, 33, and Lori Brown, 21, were found in a home construction’s sales office in Powder Springs, an Atlanta suburb.
Williams, who was nude except for stockings, had been strangled with her underwear and shot in the head. Brown had also been shot in the head.
“It was a brutal scene … almost inhumane,” Sgt. Eddie Herman, now retired from the Cobb County Police Department, told “The Real Murders of Atlanta,” airing Fridays at 9/8c on Oxygen.
The CSI combed through the crime scene. The victims’ wallets and bank cards were missing. The team found no shell casings, but recovered paper with indentations of numbers on it.
Detectives interviewed individuals closest to the victims. Brown, whose friends described her as outgoing and caring, was engaged to a police officer. Williams, who’d taken Brown under her wing, was married.
Detectives checked the alibis of Williams’ husband and Lori's fiance. Both checked out. “I had all but eliminated any domestic angle or a hired hit,” said Herman.
On the day of the murder, Brown and her mother, Linda, who worked for the same real estate company, attended a meeting and then grabbed lunch at Wendy’s drive-thru. They left each other about 1:10 p.m. Meanwhile, Williams had lunch at home and returned to her office around 12:30 p.m.
With a timeline for the murder in hand, investigators checked phone records in the office between the hours of 1:10 p.m. and 1:45 p.m.
There were two calls from the office phone to 800 numbers, which turned out to be banks. Investigators theorized that the killer was obtaining bank information from the two victims.
Detectives realized the indentations found on the paper were PIN numbers. Investigators monitored activity on the accounts. Both had been accessed at ATMs. Surveillance footage revealed only that the individual who accessed the accounts was a large white man who was driving a black truck.
Investigators canvassed the crime scene area to see if any witnesses had seen a white man in a black truck around the time of the murder. A woman reported seeing a white man driving a black Dodge Durango.
A BOLO was issued for the vehicle, which was a popular model. In the meantime, autopsy results came back. Ballistics evidence revealed that the murder weapon was a 9mm gun. But no DNA evidence was found.
“When the victims were found, they were both nude and … there was some suggestion of a sexual assault,” said Eleanor Odom, former Sr. Asst. D.A., Cobb County, GA. “But we didn't find any evidence of seminal fluid.”
Investigators recanvassed the Powders Springs area. Det. Herman spoke with a real estate agent whose office was across the street from the murder scene.
She told him a man driving a black Durango had come into her office and asked where the other two real estate agents were. He then went outside and waited for their arrival.
Based on the witness’s account, it was clear to detectives that Brown and Williams had been targeted. The real estate agent worked with law enforcement on a composite sketch.
He was large, white, bald, over 6 feet tall, in his early 30s and drove a black Durango. When the victims’ families couldn’t identify the individual in the drawing it was released to the media. Tips poured in.
One came in from a supervisor on a construction site whose employee fit the sketch. He suspected that the individual had stolen a coworker’s 9mm Ruger pistol. The worker drove a black Dodge Durango.
His name was Stacey Ian Humphries, a 30-year-old parolee. He had lived with his sister, whose home was about a mile from the Powder Springs crime scene, according to Mae Gentry, former journalist with the Atlanta Constitution Journal.
In addition to having close proximity to and knowledge of the crime scene, Humphries had previously done work at the subdivision, investigators learned.
A hiccup in the case came when the real estate agent who’d worked with police on the composite sketch was unable to identify Humphries in a photo array. He was unable to make an immediate arrest.
Herman knew Humphries was now living with his grandmother. He reached out to Humphries’ parole officer and asked him to have him come in for a meeting the next day. In the meantime, offers covertly staked out Humphries.
But Humphries spotted the unmarked car and fled on foot. “That was a gut punch,” said Herman.
Detectives kept tabs on Humphries and his whereabouts through his credit card and bank account activity and cell phone activity. They saw that he’d rented a silver Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Humphries appeared to be driving toward Canada. Investigators believed that he was headed there because he possibly faced the death penalty.
“Canada will not extradite him back to the United States unless the prosecutor waives the death penalty,” said Eddie Greathouse, retired Supv. Investigator with the Cobb County Judicial Circuit.
About 16 hours after fleeing, Humphries was spotted in the Jeep Cherokee outside Milwaukee. A half dozen law enforcement vehicles from various jurisdictions took part in a 35-minute high speed chase.
Humphries blew out two front tires on spiked sticks placed in the road by law enforcement and kept driving on the rims. He finally stopped and was taken into custody.
A 9mm Ruger handgun with blood on it was recovered from the Jeep. Herman and his team headed north to Wisconsin to confront their suspect.
“He told me ‘I don’t remember anything that happened,’” Herman told producers. Again and again, Humphries claimed to have no memory of what happened in the model home.
The interrogation ends without a confession from Humphries. But his connection to the crime appeared clear to officials.
“This crime was not random. He had been stalking these women and chose them for this attack,” said Gentry. “Why he killed them, we’ll probably never know.
Detectives believe that Humphries forced Williams to reveal her PIN, strangled her with her underwear and shot her in the back of the head. A few minutes later, Brown came into the sales office. Humphries demanded her PIN and then shot her in the head.
Humphries was transferred back to Cobb County to appear in court. DNA on the 9mm gun found in the Jeep matched Brown’s.
Humphries was charged with two counts of felony murder, two counts of malice murder and two counts of armed robbery, according to Herman. He pleaded not guilty.
In August 2007, the trial began. In October 2007, Humphries was found guilty on all counts. He was sentenced to death and sits on death row today.
To learn more about the case, watch “The Real Murders of Atlanta,” airing Fridays at 9/8c on Oxygen.