Delaware Co. man continues search for justice in mom's 1979 murder

Eric Garrett was just four when his mother, Paula, was murdered in Delaware County.
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Eric Garrett has lived in Delaware County his whole life - 38 years and counting - and he doesn't plan to leave. Not necessarily because he loves the county, but because he has unfinished business there.

Eric wants justice for the mother he lost 34 years ago.

"I remember my mother teaching me how to ride a bike," he said. "I remember her being a very very loving mother. Very kind. Very loving."

His memories of his mother, Paula, are few and the story of her death in 1979 was the biggest story in Muncie for months.

Paula gave birth to Eric at 18, was married and divorced by 22, and was living with her son in a duplex on the south side of town. She was a waitress at a nearby restaurant - friendly and popular with her regulars.

She also had a boyfriend, a 36-year-old man with a wife and four children of his own, and their relationship was not always smooth. Eric remembers the man as mean-spirited and that his mother was in the process of breaking off the relationship. Although he was only four at the time, he also says he has clear memories on what happened on the night of March 24.

Eric had a nightmare and, as little boys sometimes do, he says he crawled into his mother's bed for comfort. They fell asleep. Sometime in the middle of the night, he says, a man entered the room and flipped on the light.

The next thing Eric remembers, he was in the hospital, where doctors said he might not survive.

"I was hit several times in the left side of my head," he said. "It gave me nine skull fractures and paralyzed, partially paralyzed, the right side of my body."

His doctors feared he would have lasting brain damage, may never learn to walk or talk again, and that he would not remember anything about what happened on that fateful night.

But to this day, Eric claims to remember who came into his mother's room that night. He says it was Richard Green, his mother's boyfriend.

"I pointed him out of two lineups, video lineups, when I was able to walk and talk and when I had my capacity to do that," Garrett said.

He's sure of it - and he hasn't changed his story in 34 years.

After a month and a half, Muncie police arrested Green for murder, but then-Delaware County Prosecutor Mick Alexander never filed charges. A newspaper quoted him at the time as saying that the police did not have enough evidence to win a conviction. Muddying the waters further was the fact that Green had taken (and failed) two lie detector tests in Indiana. A pair of Muncie detectives escorted him to Chicago for a third lie detector test, which he passed, but Green escaped from custody while on the return trip to Indiana without knowing the outcome.

When Green learned that the result of the test cast doubt on his guilt, he turned himself back in to authorities. Police released him from jail and murder charges were never pursued. Charges related to the escape were never pursued. Green was - and is today - a free man.

There is no statute of limitations in a murder and Muncie police have never officially closed the Garrett case, although it has grown cold over the years. Eric's testimony is considered unreliable because he was only four at the time and was never certified as a possible witness. Since he is no longer four, that certification can no longer take place.

Testimony from neighbors who say they saw Green in the neighborhood that night is not consistent enough to build a strong case. Evidence gathered at the scene sits in a state police locker, but techniques used to preserve evidence in 1979 often don't hold up today.

"You're talking about doing things with actual paperwork, where now we live in a digital world and things are digitally preserved, so those things are more accessible now than what it was back then," said Muncie Police Sgt. Mike Engle.

So, the Garrett case remains frozen, no closer to a resolution than it was when Jimmy Carter was president and gas prices hovered around a dollar a gallon. Technically, the case is still under investigation, but as a practical matter, it appears to be stuck.

Current Delaware County Prosecutor Jeff Arnold says the case can't move forward without new evidence, and finding new evidence at this point is a longshot. Richard Green is now 70 and is believed to still be living in the area, but Eyewitness News couldn't find him. When he got a traffic ticket a few years ago, he gave the address of a business. He has never talked publicly about the case.

Eric Garrett has moved forward in his life, despite the scars that he still carried from the brutal attack, he says, because he didn't have a choice.@After he recovered from his injuries, he moved in with his grandmother in Yorktown, where he had what he describes as a "great" childhood - despite missing a mother that he was only beginning to know.

"I definitely feel lonely," he said, "because I can't just call my mother up like a lot of people can. I'd love to visit her at her house and talk things over, but I'll never have that chance."

You might think that a young man would lose all hope in his situation, but Eric is hopeful that he will see a resolution in his mother's murder. He doesn't have a lot of faith that the Delaware County Prosecutor's Office will be the place to find it, however. He says he'd like the governor, or at least someone with more authority than the prosecutor, to take a look at the case as a way to force some action.

He sees the local prosecutor as the one holding the power in the county - power that he does not see being used to help him and his family find closure in his mother's murder. For his part, Eric plans to keep talking about the case until enough people listen to get the man he believes did it, prosecuted for the crime.

"I cannot let it go. No one deserves to die like that. I mean, my mother was 22 years old. There's no way I'm going to let this go, there's no way I'm going to give up," he said.