Monument for Martinsville murder victim rejected
Forty-five years after a young black woman was brutally killed on the streets of Martinsville, Morgan County Commissioners voted to approve a monument on the town square in her memory.
But the proposed tribute to Carol Jenkins was short lived. The commissioners are backing away from the plan amid complaints.
The couple that proposed the monument and who lost saw Jenkins alive, Don and Norma Neal, sat down for an exclusive interview with 13 Investigates as the case gains national exposure.
The Neals lived with the scars of the Jenkins case for 45 years. They had hoped a monument in Carol's honor would bring healing. The Neals talk about race relations, their regrets and hopes of finding the elusive second suspect in their lifetime.
In the heart of a town still bleeding from a brutal attack on its streets back in 1968, Don Neal's monument in memory of Jenkins is without a home.
"I just wanted to put something here and maybe make some diversity for Martinsville," said Neal, 64.
Commissioners had voted to put it on the town square, but days later abruptly backed away.
Morgan County Commissioner Norman Voyles says he "started getting flack. Called Mr. Neal and told him we have a problem."
Voyles says he is "not opposed to the monument. It's not the proper place (the Square should be) reserved for notables."
"I don't want her hid where nobody can see that monument," said Neal, stressing the importance of putting the monument in plain view.
The 21-year-old Jenkins was stabbed on Morgan Street and left to die just blocks from the square 45 years ago.
Her sales team had stopped in town to sell encyclopedias.
"It's kind of, like, ingrained in my brain - September 16, 1968," said Neal, recalling the date Carol was killed.
It's ingrained after a chance meeting left the Neals to grieve alone over Carol's death, the town's response, and failed police investigations. Now, for the first time, they're ready to talk about it all on camera.
"It's just not right you know," said Don thinking about the murder.
"I feel so bad for her family," chimed in 65-year-old Norma.
Norma was just a 20-something newlywed when a frightened Carol knocked on their door.
"Please let me in, I've got somebody following me," Norma recalls her saying.
The Neals called police, who tracked down two locals who admitted following her, but to nothing else.
Norma walked blocks with Carol looking for her group. When they couldn't find anyone, Norma says she begged Carol to wait at her home.
"'Oh no I don't want to bother you people'," Norma remembers. "She was such a nice person. Very polite. I mean, if you could go back and redo time, I would have dragged her back."
A half-hour later, Carol Jenkins was dead. It was Don Neal who identified her body.
Days later, the Neals were facing death threats from people upset the couple was working with police to find the killer.
"His dad got threats and he sat on the front porch all night with a shotgun," said Norma revealed.
"Somebody tried to kick the back door in. Called us 'n----- lovers.' Oh it was awful," added Don.
"We finally moved from there," said Norma.
"Martinsville at the time that happened, it was pretty racist," explained Don. "The new generation of kids and children I think is changing."
The Neals don't regret trying to help Carol or the police. They're frustrated no one has had to pay for the crime and say investigators are partly to blame.
Norma says the police just got to a point where they were done investigating.
The case sat dormant for 33 years until 2001, when a 40-year-old Indianapolis woman revealed a chilling $7 secret.
Shirley McQueen told 13 Investigates reporter Sandra Chapman and investigators about the yellow paisley scarf Carol was wearing and that her own father and another man chased down Carol and killed her.
"I remember watching her fall. And I talked about him giving me that $7 for me to keep a secret," McQueen said in a tape-recorded interview for a book Chapman published on the case in 2012. "I told him everything I remembered about her scarf - her yellow scarf."
The scarf led to the title of Chapman's book, "The Girl in the Yellow Scarf."
Kenneth Clay Richmond was arrested and charged with Carol's murder, but died before he could stand trial. State police say Richmond admitted involvement, but investigators have no confession on tape. Richmond never revealed the name of that alleged accomplice.
"Do you think the second person was from Martinsville?" Chapman asked the Neals.
"They said he lived in Martinsville. The cold case detectives told us that," answered Norma Neal, disclosing publicly for the first time inside information shared by investigators.
It's an important fact, because Martinsville residents say their community was vilified for the murder and Kenneth Richmond was from Indianapolis.
To this day, the Neals say there's still chatter in Martinsville about the second suspect. They want the case reopened and all involved held accountable.
"For somebody to take a life like that, in my book, they don't deserve to live because of what they done to her and her family," said Norma as she fought back tears.
"I hope people in the community don't think we're wrong for helping," added Don.
For the Neals, it's about acknowledging past failures and trying to make a better future.
"I'm going to put her picture in here," Don said, showing drawings of the monument he still hopes to erect in Carol's memory.
Along with her picture on the black granite, a bible verse from Revelations 21:4 which reads, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
The Neals are hoping Martinsville residents will help locate a new site and donate to help cover the cost.
Monday night, the Carol Jenkins case is getting national exposure on Investigation Discovery. Both the Neals and Chapman are part of a documentary on the case, as historians explore "sundown towns" of the past and present.
Sundown towns are communities where African Americans are reportedly unwelcome after dark.
Investigation Discovery's "The Injustice Files" airs at 8 p.m. EST Monday (February 24). Check your local listings for channels.