Martinsville still trying to clean image 45 years after murder

Carol Jenkins was murdered in Martinsville in 1968.
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It's been 45 years since Carol Jenkins was killed on the streets of Martinsville.

The crime went unsolved for decades and city leaders are still working to erase its reputation as a racist town.

Kim Fisher's roots run deep in Martinsville. The cutting, snipping and pruning are all for the city's image. She is too young to understand the murder case that tarnished it on this day in 1968.

"I don't believe that people are different colors. I just believe we are all one," said Fisher as she worked.

Down the street, Mayor Phillip Deckard remembers getting the call. A 21-year-old black encyclopedia saleswoman lay dead on Morgan Street. He was a radio newsman at the time.

"Certainly was alarming and everyone was concerned," recalled Deckard. "It was really something that affected Martinsville and most of its residents."

For 33 years, the case went unsolved until an investigation into the police handling of the case prompted a daughter to reveal her 70-year-old father, Kenneth Clay Richmond of Indianapolis, was the killer. State Police cold case investigators say Richmond admitted involvement in the racially motivated crime before he died.

Martinsville city officials thought Richmond's arrest would vindicate the town. But it has not.

"That's really a sore spot to me. It's also a matter of much concern. I knew for a fact that there were a lot of rumors that were not true," he said, referring to claims that Martinsville was the headquarters for the Ku Klux Klan.@

The truth is, the Klan marched in the city as it did in many other towns.

Yet 45 years after the crime and a decade after the arrest, "That's one of the towns you don't really want to stop in because of notions of the Ku Klux Klan and racism," said Floyd Hobson, a student at Indiana University.

Another student, Siqu Liu, said she has never heard those warnings, but also says she has never visited Martinsville.

Jade La Croix has been in town just a few weeks and she has been warned more than once.

"I heard it was a dangerous place and I was told not to go there," she told Eyewitness News.

"I hate to say it, but my good friends and constituents in Bloomington, Indiana University, seem to be fostering that continuing idea," said Deckard, who insists Martinsville is an open town.

Thirty miles south of Martinsville, students at Indiana University are leery. Indiana University Professor John Stanfield sat down with Martinsville civic leaders and says it's in the best interest of both communities to work together.

"It's not good for the community, it's not good for IU, because it does impact our ability to be able to recruit students and even faculty," said Stanfield, who teaches African-American Studies and Sociology.

Back in Martinsville, at the scene of the crime, a child care center now stands, devoted to educating the future.